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Governor signs children's mental health bills

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said the legislation invests $300 million toward expanding services.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont signed several bills into law toward the end of the session including a series of bills prioritizing mental health services for children in Connecticut.

“Obviously we thought we had to do more, especially coming after two years of COVID and we’re going to make a difference in these kids’ lives and if we have to do more, we’ll do more," Lamont said.

The Connecticut School Counselor Association said the pandemic has worsened the mental health crisis students were already facing, increasing the need for mental health support in schools.

“To all the children out there: we’ve heard you. We’re fighting for you. Help is on the way," State Rep. Liz Linehan (D-Cheshire) said at a ceremonial bill signing Wednesday.

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Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said the legislation invests $300 million in expanding treatment, making services more affordable, and helping practitioners take on more clients. The bills also call for the hiring of more social workers and therapists and improvements to emergency services for mental health and substance use-related emergency calls.

“I want to thank all of my colleagues in both chambers,” State Rep. Tammy Exum (D-West Hartford) said. “They voted unanimously on this bipartisan legislation. That is huge.”

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The Connecticut School Counselor Association has been advocating for the legislation’s passage this session. The association’s Government Relations and Advocacy Chair Virginia DeLong said they’re happy school counselors were included in the legislation.

“We have very high caseloads and we’re just not able to meet the needs of students so this bill, in particular, provides grant funding so that school districts will be able to hire more school counselors, school social workers and school psychologists," DeLong said.

She is also the Director of Counseling at Norwich Technical High School. 

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DeLong said this is a good start and hopes that more is done to fund and prioritize mental health services in the future.

“The rate of anxiety depression and suicidal ideation has risen so much in the last couple of years in particular,” she said. “We definitely need more of us in schools to address the needs of our students and it’s really hard some days leaving, not knowing if we’ve gotten to everyone that needs to be gotten to.”

State Senator Saud Anwar says grants should be available soon, adding that some money will start to pour out within the next month as well as the beginning of next year.

Elisha Machado is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at emachado@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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