Amid a nationwide youth mental health crisis, doctors in Connecticut will have more opportunities to connect children and young adults to mental health professionals thanks to new funding available through the bipartisan Youth Mental Health Act. safer communities, officials said Monday.
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat who campaigned for the bill, was joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Rep. Jahana Hayes, and Carole Johnson, director of the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration. , during a panel discussion in New Britain on Monday. . The event included providers from Connecticut and officials from the New Britain Wheeler Family Health and Wellness Center.
Federal legislation provides $80 million to help pediatricians and health care providers in schools and emergency departments connect with mental health specialists and $60 million to train primary care physicians mental health care, among other investments.
Previously, the program only included primary care providers; money for schools and emergency services is an expansion.
“[This] quite possibly represents the biggest investment in children’s mental health since the Affordable Care Act,” Murphy said Monday.
Since the pandemic, more and more children are reporting problems with anxiety, depression and eating disorders, providers said.
In late 2021, the United States Surgeon General issued an advisory regarding a national youth mental health crisis exacerbated by the pandemic. Connecticut lawmakers prioritized the issue during the last legislative session, introducing three sweeping bills aimed at resolving the crisis.
“What families need, what families are asking for, is support for children’s mental health needs,” Johnson said. His agency exists under the umbrella of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
The Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program was created in 2016 by the Mental Health Reform Act. The federal bill extends it another five years.
Connecticut’s program, called Access Mental Health CT, covers children and young adults ages 18 to 22.
The program will provide funding for young people to have immediate mental health telehealth consultations when they see their primary care physician.
“We are seeing an unprecedented amount of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug use and drug abuse,” said Dr. Greg Germain, pediatrician at Yale New Children’s Hospital. haven. “It overwhelms us, but thank goodness for Access Mental Health.”
Dr. Richard Miller, medical director of the Access Mental Health CT program in Wheeler, said that in addition to providing screenings, answering questions or helping coordinate care, the program offers mental health training and webinars to primary care providers.
“Connecticut is well positioned to ensure that we understand that children’s behavioral health is health care,” said Vannessa Dorantes, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families.
Monday’s roundtable was one of several efforts in recent weeks to raise awareness of the new program. About 85% of Connecticut pediatricians use the Access program, roundtable participants said.
Representative Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, said programs like this would have been an integral part of her teaching experience. Sometimes when students were in crisis, there weren’t enough resources available, she says.
“It’s the most hollow feeling when you don’t know where to direct them to find that help,” Hayes said.
Mental health support is part of a larger effort to keep people safe, Senator Richard Blumenthal said. He referenced the state’s Red Flag Act, which establishes a legal procedure for temporarily taking someone’s gun if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others.
The law is a step in the direction of a goal of treating mental health as part of holistic health care, Murphy said.
“It’s what families need,” Hayes said. “That’s what kids need.”