Posted on January 10, 2022
Looking ahead to the 2022 legislative session, which convenes in February and will end in May, I will be proposing bills to address one of the biggest impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic – our mental health. Since the outbreak of the pandemic our healthcare system has been tested. Unfortunately, there is a clear disconnect in the continuum of care and accessibility of mental health programs and services.
Shortly after the 2021 session had adjourned, I was appointed to serve on the governor’s Mental Health Provider Task Force. In addition, I have been working with legislators from both parties on Mental Health Crisis legislation for this upcoming session. We have been working collectively on ideas to strengthen the delivery of care from our state’s mental health providers. As these proposals begin to formalize into legislation, I wanted to highlight some of my priorities that are focused on increasing accessibility and quality of mental health services.
Ensuring telehealth options are available to residents across Connecticut is a cornerstone in providing basic access to virtual mental health appointments. One idea to improve accessibility would be to partner with neighboring states to provide telehealth services to patients in a more regional fashion by cross licensing providers with telehealth capability to increase accessibility and affordability. Additionally, the state should seek a partnership with our higher education institutions. Another avenue to increase telehealth services would be for our state’s universities to establish community clinics for doctoral candidates in Psychology programs. Ultimately, the implementation of such a program would allow candidates to build their clinical hours and patients would have access to low-cost services.
It’s important that the state places value on mental health clinicians. That’s why I will be supporting an idea to establish an incentive for doctoral candidates to open their practices or team up with existing practices here in our state after they have earned their licensing credentials. These incentives could be provided in the form of a student loan redemption plan or funding a first-time home buyers’ credit.
Other items that we are planning on tackling outside of traditional legislation are to secure federal funding and to eliminate barriers with dated insurance terminology. By allowing a psychologist a predetermined number of visits prior to diagnosing a patient, or having a wellness type of mental health code, we can have preventive mental health visits to help patients before symptoms accelerate. Preventive mental health should be just as important as physical preventive visits.
The state must continue to lobby the federal government to prioritize Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement reforms that can help keep community health centers viable. Further, patients who are seeking care should not be denied a mental health appointment because of red tape. I will be engaging in discussions with providers to determine the best way we can provide appropriate levels of care to state residents.
The bottom line is that far too many issues have festered during the pandemic, which have had a profound impact on the mental health of many Connecticut residents. I have had many people contact me to say they cannot get the services that they need. The recommendations I will be proposing this session, along with the support of the membership of the task force, help find a better pathway for individuals to connect with mental health services and programs they need.
I will be communicating the progress of these mental health-focused proposals as they are considered by the various legislative committees of cognizance. You can also follow along by regularly checking-in on my website, www.repnuccio.com, or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.