Children’s mental health issues are a top priority for CT lawmakers

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Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives announced a bipartisan effort to help address children’s mental health issues that have been exacerbated during the COVID pandemic.

Among the proposed bills to address immediate, intermediate, and long-term goals include making it easier for out-of-state mental health professionals to obtain licenses in Connecticut; provide more staff in public schools; establishing peer support programs; eliminate prior authorization for mental health care coverage; and provide flexibility for school districts across the state to address mental health issues facing their students.


“It’s really important because it’s not one size fits all, people,” said state Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, co-chair of the Children’s Legislative Committee.

Pediatricians across the state would be offered continuing education on children’s mental health, under the bill.

Speaker of the House Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, leading a Friday press conference on the issue in the state Capitol, noted a variety of proposals there on the issue, which is likely to be an important part of the short budgetary adjustment session of the legislature which ends on May 4.

“It should and must be bipartisan legislation,” Ritter said. “Historical changes don’t often happen when they’re one-sided. We will have our disagreements. We will have votes going one way or the other, but this is an opportunity to show the state and show the country what happens when people work together.

In November, Ritter ordered a bipartisan task force to examine the problem and potential solutions.

“A lot of lives and a lot of young lives have been impacted by the pandemic and the mental health crisis that existed before the pandemic, that’s only the case now,” said House Majority Leader Jason Rojas. , D—East Hartford. “It’s definitely an opportunity for all of us to come together and really address a long-standing need and address it in a systemic way.”

State Representative Tammy Exum, D-West Hartford, a former teacher, said she has listened to stories from parents with children in mental health crisis.

“When given the opportunity to finally meet a supplier, they were sometimes told it would take three months or more,” Exum said. “Three months is a very long time if your child is in crisis and your family is in crisis, and you don’t know how you’re going to spend three days. I also understand what it’s like when you get there and find your insurance isn’t accepted, or if you get there and can’t afford it.

State Representative Tammy Nuccio, R-Tolland, called the proposals innovative. “Is this bill perfect? No. But by bringing it to the public hearing process, this framework is now open to the process and allows for feedback to help it improve,” she said.

She said it could probably be improved with public input in the coming weeks. “Considering a full range of care will give us more providers, better accessibility and better price.”

Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, and his senior deputy, Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said the pandemic has been tough on children and adults.

“Families are struggling as Connecticut continues to lag the rest of the country in jobs and income growth,” Kelly and Formica wrote in a statement. “Pandemic-related measures have also reduced face-to-face interactions between children and social supports and professionals, making it more difficult to recognize signs of mental health issues, abuse and trauma and seek help. early intervention. Health care in Connecticut remains unaffordable for countless working-class and middle-class families.

They pointed their recent proposal to reduce costs and increase access to health care.

Earlier in the week, majority Democrats in the The Senate offered its own legislative proposals on mental health. The two bills, designated as Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2, indicating their importance to the majority caucus, aim to support children’s mental health, increase access to health in schools, to train staff and to develop childcare and pre-school services.

“It’s not a rivalry,” Ritter said. “This is not a competition for bills or ideas, but rather shows that everyone in this building believes this is an opportunity for us to make major changes in the way we deal with the mental health of our children, behavioral health of our children and shows the need that exists.

kdixon@ctpost.com Twitter: @KenDixonCT

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