Martin M. Looney

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

An Advocate for Us

June 2, 2022

Senate Democrats Join Governor Lamont As Flagship Children’s Mental Health Bills Signed Into Law

Today, Senate Democrats joined Governor Lamont, colleagues and advocates at the State Capitol as three flagship mental health bills, including two bills marked as Senate Democrats’ highest priority for the 2022 legislative session, were signed into law. With these bills’ enaction, Connecticut will see sharp increases in resources and aid for services in the medical sector, school-based aid and early childhood interventions, all of them seeking to reverse longstanding issues with mental health resource access and aid.

“For years before the pandemic, we knew children’s mental health was a worsening issue in our communities. The pandemic only made accelerated the problem,” said Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “These bills were designed with one purpose – to aid children. Those children experiencing distress will have new, better resources available to them to receive aid. Those at risk will have access to programs put in place to aid their development and mitigate the impact of mental health issues. The children of Connecticut’s future will also be able to make use of key development and support programs through these bills, so that they may not experience the circumstances that can contribute to or deepen the impact of a mental health crisis. This overarching, detailed approach with significant depth and attention to every aspect of youth mental health will save lives and benefit our vulnerable young people for years to come.”

“What’s great about these bills becoming law is that they thoroughly address the many facets of care necessary to support children’s mental health,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “It meets kids in their schools, providing them with strong pillars of support that will help them stand tall as they grow. It bolsters resources and ensures professionals are ready and able to take on the challenges asked of them to address children’s needs. For those at risk and those struggling, it deepens the pool of aid they will be able to utilize. It’s an every-child approach and a whole-child approach with direct and actionable care for children’s needs.”

“If you were to ask a young person today what can be done to help them and their fellow students the answer you are likely to get is supporting their mental health. We are in the midst of a children’s mental health crisis and our young people are begging for assistance. I want Connecticut’s students to know that we hear you and that help is on the way,” said State Senator Doug McCrory (D-Hartford), Senate Chair of the Education Committee. “These new laws will strengthen and expand Connecticut’s mental health infrastructure so that the resources and personnel are more accessible in schools and communities. By putting more tools in the hands of students, families and schools, we are saving lives and supporting the ability of our young leaders to thrive.”

“I am proud today that we are telling the children of Connecticut, ‘we see you, we hear you and we support you’ with these bills’ signing into law,” said State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), Senate Chair of the Children’s Committee. “Far too many of our children face crises or are at risk of experiencing crisis, and they need aid as soon as possible. Today, we take these issues head-on and work to support and protect the health of our future. It’s my hope that as today’s children become tomorrow’s leaders, the importance of mental health remains strong in their minds.”

Senate Bill 1, “An Act Concerning Childhood Mental and Physical Health Services In Schools,” takes a “whole-child” view toward building resources and infrastructure to better care for Connecticut’s youth. Among its benefits including significant funding for school-based health centers, focus on hiring and retaining social workers and psychologists in schools, strong enhancement of child care and early childhood education through funding workers and child development centers, and reinforcing the state’s efforts toward attracting and retaining a high-quality teacher workforce. It further bolsters education programs, streamlines pathways toward specialized education and enhances school response to overdoses amid other benefits.

Senate Bill 2, “An Act Expanding Preschool and Mental and Behavioral Services For Children,” addresses mental health by supporting, expanding and creating preventative programs aimed to reduce conditions that can contribute to children developing mental health disorders, supporting children in early development and formative years to help prepare them for success throughout their lives. Its benefits include the expansion of mobile crisis centers to 24/7 availability statewide, creation of an equity-based mental health fund to aid the public, enshrinement of telehealth services, studying the effects of social media and mobile phone use on children’s mental health, expanding family care center populations, expanding hiring of social workers in pediatrician offices and the recruiting and retaining of health care workers, specifically behavioral health experts and professionals.

House Bill 5001, “An Act Concerning Children’s Mental Health,” seeks to respond directly to the youth mental health crisis, with the additional pressures placed upon our society and resources by the COVID-19 pandemic, in supporting the children’s mental and behavioral health system in Connecticut. For years, children and teens have experienced increased rates of depression, self-harm and suicide attempts, and the crisis has spilled over, leading to significant strain on available systems and platforms. The legislation seeks to enhance the state’s behavioral health workforce, support school-based mental health services, expand mental health treatment facilities statewide and increase access to help through insurance coverage. More specifically, it creates a partnership with Connecticut Children’s to treat early-stage mental health support, provides funding for recruitment and retention of child and adolescent psychologists, creates a new pilot program for a federally qualified health center in Waterbury to treat adolescents with behavioral health needs and requires insurers to cover evidence-based and collaborative care services for youths.