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Mental health help could soon be on the way for Connecticut children

The House passed a sweeping bill this week, now it's on to the Senate

HARTFORD, Conn — Big changes could soon be on the way for Connecticut children when it comes to mental health help. A historic bill has been passed by The House of Representatives, and now it's up to the Senate to make its call.

"I'm so proud of our product," said Rep. Tammy Exum, (D-West Hartford). "We talked to parents, advocates, agencies, hospitals, we had a 16-plus hour hearing." 

Lawmakers spent months meeting with stakeholders before the bill was created. They all agreed Connecticut is in a state of crisis when it comes to mental health, especially when it comes to children. It's an issue that's been around for a while but grew during the pandemic. 

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"It seems to be leveling off a bit. But there were times we had 50 kids in an emergency room that was meant for 12," said Howard Sovronsky, Chief Behavioral Health Officer at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

Sovronsky said many of those kids were facing mental health crises, forced to sit in the waiting room for hours, but it was the only safe place to stay.

"We're hoping that as we start to adjust the system by creating more access, creating more funding, that kids can be treated outside of emergency rooms, and in less restrictive environments," said Sovronsky.

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HB 5001 is working to solve those issues. Here are a few proposals in the bill:

  • Train pediatricians to recognize signs of early-stage mental health concerns
  • Provide funding to recruit more child psychologists across the state
  • Open urgent crisis centers, to lessen the load on emergency rooms
  • Start a PILOT program in Waterbury to help kids with behavioral health needs. They'd hope to open it this year and serve a minimum of 144 kids each year.

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"This is the beginning, not the end. The thing I'm most happy about is that is that we finally brought attention to this issue," Sovronsky said.

This bill should be taken up by the Senate with the next few days. They only need 18 votes before it gets sent to the governor's desk.

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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