Community services

Current mental health proposals fail to boost vital community services

After expressing suicidal thoughts, Elle, 11 years old waited four hours in a crowded emergency room hallway at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford before she could be moved to a room. She then had to wait another six days until a bed became available at the Institute of Living.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only caused millions of deaths and serious illnesses, but it has also impacted the mental health of countless people, including children like Ella. From school closures to wearing masks and quarantines, the educational experience for young people is entirely different than what you or I have had.

This pandemic has caused a significant increase in mental health problems among children. In 2021, a national emergency for pediatric mental health has been reported by several pediatric health organizations. According to a CDC report on national trends in pediatric mental health problems, the proportions of mental health-related visits to emergency departments in 2020 increased by 24% among children ages 5 to 11 and 31 % among teens ages 12-17, when compared to visits in 2019. Here, the Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department saw more than 40 children per day needing mental health assistance in April 2021, and Yale Children’s Hospital Emergency Department noted an increase from 1-2 patients per day in 2019 to approximately 26 patients per day with health needs mental in 2021.

Erin DeMarco

To children’s mental health sign In late October 2021, doctors and mental health experts pointed out that the overflow of children in mental health crisis in emergency departments was partly due to the fact that parents are often unaware of alternatives – in their communities and their schools – to the emergency services. These trips to the emergency room typically result in long, costly stays due to limited beds and a lack of inpatient psychiatric facilities.

The pediatric mental health crisis is considered one of the top concerns at the state capitol this year. Many bills have been introduced to address this problem, including Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2. Additionally, Governor Ned Lamont recently proposed Deploying $160 million in new funding for behavioral health. Some of that funding would go toward projects like developing a new 12-bed psychiatric unit at Connecticut Children’s Medical Health Center, expanding mobile crisis response, and improving race data collection. , ethnicity and language in health care.

However, what this mental health funding lacks is support for the community-based nonprofit organizations that provide most state-sponsored social services. Governor Lamont must direct funds to these nonprofit community organizations because they are a crucial first step for families who need mental health support instead of having to resort to overcrowded emergency rooms. .

Community non-profit organizations lost approximately $461 million in public funding that has not kept pace with inflation. In addition to this, a recent survey co-authored by the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance found that one in five nonprofits are experiencing financial challenges and about 36% are struggling to serve communities that need their support. Gian-Carl Casa, President of the Alliance, Noted that people who had worked for these nonprofits start to leave and go to places where they can get better paid. Especially since 68% of nonprofits say demand for services has increased since the start of the pandemic, more funds need to be dedicated to paying desirable salaries to nonprofit staff so that these organizations can have the manpower to meet the demand.

If more funding is provided to these nonprofits, Connecticut’s system for addressing pediatric mental health will become more balance. Instead of having to resort to emergency rooms and potentially spend hours in waiting rooms, families could seek help from their local nonprofit organizations. This community-based mental health care would allow children to receive early treatment and rehabilitation while maintaining relationships with family and friends. Community-based nonprofits are the safety net, but they need funding to thrive as such. Such funding would allow families like Ella’s to have more services in their communities to avoid the need for eventual hospital and residential treatment for their children.

Erin DeMarco is a student at Trinity College majoring in public policy and law.