Report: CT needs to bolster child behavioral health system
Friday, November 24, 2023
A report has found Connecticut could do more to strengthen its youth behavioral health system.
Connecticut and the U.S. are facing an increasing child mental health crisis, which was brewing long before the pandemic made it worse. A 2022 report showed suicide was the leading cause of death for Connecticut teens age 15 to 19, but Connecticut is making strides to provide an adept youth behavioral health system.
Jason Lang, chief program officer for the Child Health and Development Institute, described one of the report's recommendations.
"The current reimbursement rates for many behavioral health services have not kept up with inflation over the last decade," Lang pointed out. "There's a large gap in terms of funding that's available to the providers, that in turn is limiting their ability to attract behavioral health clinicians and staff."
Almost half the population in the U.S. lives in a mental health workforce shortage area. KFF data showed Connecticut has 47 health care professional shortage areas, leaving more than 1.6 million people without access to coverage.
Other report recommendations included creating a central support to provide training for workers and keep up on employment trends.
In addition to the behavioral health industry taking action, Lang noted the General Assembly could take its own actions, too. Some of these include Senate Bill 2, which was passed this year. The bill created the Office of the Behavioral Health Advocate to help people in the state get mental health care.
"Some of the other things the Legislature could do are make an immediate investment in recruiting and particularly retaining the clinicians that are working in community mental health right now," Lang suggested. "Because I think if we don't do anything to support and retain them, we're going to continue to lose them to those other jobs."
Getting people to enter back into this workforce could be a problem. A report found 56% of public health workers are experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by the mental health crisis growing during the pandemic and in the years since.
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