The children’s mental health crisis is going nowhere. Suicide has become the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults, and despite 80% of chronic mental health disorders beginning in childhood, only 20% of affected children receive care from specialist providers, and even less do they receive follow-up attention.
On the other hand, Connecticut schools do not meet the recommended ratio of 250: 1 among students and counselors of the American School Counselor Association and the recommended ratio of 250: 1 among students and social workers of the School Social Work Association of America. in the first de facto line of mental health services for young people that allows less than 25% of those diagnosed to receive some treatment.
The incompatibility between our schools and mental health systems is an urgent issue, especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has highlighted pre-existing systemic failures. Workload-related pressures aggravated by lack of social interaction have exacerbated the underlying stress among students; quarantines have intensified concern about psychiatric disorders associated with unaddressed anxiety and depression; many children, who cannot run away from family and home for extended periods, have lost access to guarantees at school and in public.
That is why I worked with my state Senator Will Haskell (D-26) in this legislative session to incorporate a key provision that would address these shortcomings in the care pathway in Bill no. 2 of the Senate, a comprehensive proposal on child safety and health formally approved by the Senate on May 5th. This particular provision (section 10) would expand minors ’access to outpatient mental care by removing the limit on the number of counseling sessions they can request without parental consent, allowing children in difficult home situations. maintain your privacy by leveraging therapy services to meet critical needs.
Access to outpatient mental care is particularly crucial in cases where parents may obstruct the outreach of professionals or in informing parents may worsen the contributing factors. Some parents may completely reject the idea of their child talking to mental health professionals out of concern about stigma or the effects of prescribed medication. Patterns of abuse and restraint about sexual orientation at home can also encourage children to look beyond immediate caregivers for support and safety models.
Like the State Department of Children and Families and the services of the Connecticut Medicaid Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic, vulnerable children using therapy typically require more than six sessions (the current limit) to meet their goals and the vast majority of outpatient care authorizations for minors explicitly belong to mental health. Allowing minors to seek an unlimited number of outpatient counseling sessions would align ease of access with these clinical realities, keeping parents conditionally informed of the evolution of diagnoses, recommendations, and treatment plans.
In many cases, children can take advantage of expanded access in a feasible way by seeking coverage under CHIP, Medicaid, school plans, or external sponsorship. Depending on their insurance, minors can also be guaranteed counseling for depression and the detection of interpersonal violence under the Affordable Care Act at no additional cost. Digitally connected children can access care through telecare services and quickly cope with the symptoms: a viable substitute for the physical visit at a time when reimbursement rates for behavioral consultations remain low and the costs of the increase in late-stage hospital care. Despite the logistical obstacles that remain, providing minors with this last resort discretion would further minimize the number of people left to defend themselves.
For young people who have exhausted all options when it comes to seeking help, the gift of new means of access (just one more option) can make all the difference. I urge the legislators of the House to pass Bill no. 2 of the Senate and upholding our state’s commitment to being a prominent role model for the availability of its public health resources. We save lives.
Vignesh Subramanian lives in Wilton.
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