CT legislators push for more mental health support for kids
By Jessika Harkay, Ginny Monk, CTMirror.org, CT Insider
State lawmakers are confident that Senate Bill 2, which has passed out of the Committee on Children, will continue to build upon previous legislation that ensures the general well-being of Connecticut youth.
The bill contains several measures that cover protections for public libraries and expand requirements that certain information about kids’ education and child care be provided in Spanish. It also aims to help more children get enrolled in HUSKY and continue work that began last session to provide mental health support for kids.
“It’s all about access to services and a continuum of care,” said Sen. Ceci Maher, D-Darien, who serves as co-chair on the Committee on Children.
The bill covers a few of the major issues that children’s committee leadership said they wanted to tackle this session. Members also pushed measures that would encourage safe storage of cannabis products and create a police sting operations unit to address online sexual abuse of minors. The committee has no more scheduled meetings this session.
Maher identified the key components of the 22-page bill as:
- Reducing the cost of licensing and renewal fees for social workers;
- Providing a Spanish speaking service coordinator for English language learner students who have special needs;
- Providing behavior health advocates to help serve uninsured populations, or when there’s problems with insurance;
- Adding Medicaid reimbursement for suicide risk assessments;
- Giving free mental health evaluations at school-based health centers;
- Creating sanctuary libraries.
A public hearing on Feb. 24, which lasted for more than five hours, showed vast support for the bill. But there’s still room for changes, Maher said.
“I heard from the libraries that they want to sit down with us and talk a little bit about the wording so we make sure that we get this right,” Maher said. “We did hear from people about wanting the [Department of Social Services] to hire temporary and part-time employees to collaborate with nonprofit organizations to identify children who aren’t enrolled in the HUSKY health program.”
Beyond taking public comment into consideration, the Committee on Children’s ranking member, Sen. Lisa Seminara, R-Avon, said the discussion will remain “ongoing” among lawmakers.