Posted on April 28, 2022
(HARTFORD, CT) – State Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (R-106) hailed the unanimous passage of a bipartisan, ground-breaking children’s mental health proposal in the House of Representatives today, to address critical short and long-term mental and behavioral health needs of Connecticut’s children. The bill, cosponsored by Bolinsky, will address a combination of factors that have traditionally limited youth-access to appropriate social/emotional care, at this time of great need. A new state infrastructure will be deployed to creaa network of professional clinicians, counselors and interventionalists close to home and in our schools, focused on detection, family-connected early-interventions and care in new, more-timely and compassionately ways than the past.
The need to address the youth mental health crisis has significantly increased due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rates of depression, suicide, and self-harm have risen among adolescents and emergency rooms across Connecticut are inundated with patients awaiting placement into inpatient psychiatric beds. Schools across the state are facing a shortage of mental health professionals and are sounding the alarm on the need to expand access and support services.
Rep. Bolinsky said, “This new network is a serious investment our children and, ultimately, in the future of Connecticut. The anxiety of a pandemic, the isolation caused by lockdowns and nearly two-years not being able to see and relate to each other and many of the adults in their lives just devastated so many young people. The needs are many and they cannot wait. This is not a perfect bill but it’s a great start.”
According to the Children’s Hospital Association in 2020 there was a 24% increase in mental health emergency visits in children age 5 to 11 and a 31% increase in children age 12 to 17.
The legislation, House Bill 5001, An Act Concerning Children’s Mental Health, aims to address the youth mental health crisis and support children and families through the following measures:
- Enhancing the Behavioral Health Workforce
- Creates a partnership with Connecticut Children’s to co-ordinate a training program for pediatricians to treat early-stage mental health concerns.
- Provides funding for the recruitment and retention of child and adolescent psychologists to address the state shortage.
- Expands License reciprocity for out of state mental health professionals to increase the number of providers and establishes a need-based state licensure fee scholarship with a focus on diverse applicants.
- Establishes grant program for local school boards, youth camps, and summer programs to hire mental health specialists.
- Creates a screening tool for pediatricians and emergency room physicians to recognize mental health concerns in children for early intervention.
- Expanding Behavioral Health Treatment Facilities Across the State
- Creates an intensive outpatient counseling pilot program in Waterbury for a federally qualified health center to provide treatment for adolescents with behavioral health needs. The program, slated to open before Fall 2022, will serve at least 144 children per year.
- Supports opening of the new DCF Urgent Crisis Centers specializing in meeting urgent pediatric behavioral health needs.
- Expands ACCESS Mental Health to provide up to three follow-up telehealth visits directly to certain patients after a pediatrician has first utilized ACCESS Mental Health on behalf of a patient and to provide short term care coordination services, through a contractor, for all patients on whose behalf ACCESS Mental Health is utilized.
- Increasing Access Through Insurance Coverage
- Eliminates prior authorization for inpatient psychiatric services in certain circumstances where there is imminent danger in the patient’s health or safety, or the health or safety or safety others.
- Requires individual and group health insurers to cover intensive evidence-based services used to treat mental and behavioral health conditions in children and adolescents.
- Requires individual and group insurers to cover collaborative care for behavioral healthcare.