DCF Posts Children's Behavioral Health Resource Guides for Parents
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for all of us. Children, in particular, have experienced increased mental and behavioral health concerns due to anxiety caused by the changes they have experienced in their lives, extended isolation and loss of family members. Parents have struggled to find local mental health providers to help their children cope or recommend appropriate treatments.
To address the growing need to direct parents away from hospital emergency departments to other treatment options, the General Assembly's Committee on Children championed Public Act 21-116 last session. The act requires DCF to develop an electronic document for each health region designated by DMHAS describing the behavioral and mental health evaluation and treatment resources available to children by 12/1/21. DCF, understanding the need for immediate relief, was able to compile the information sooner and posted the resource guides in early November.
The guides can be found at www.connectingtocarect.org/support-services
"The resource guides will provide valuable points of contact to parents who are already dealing with a difficult situation and hopefully have them access services earlier before their children experience a worsening mental health problem," stated Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes. "Accessing supports is a sign of strength and this document provides families one more added support as they are empowered to connect with services in their local communities."
Senator Saud Anwar, the Senate Co-Chair of the Committee on Children said, "Every person in our community who cares about the wellbeing of children should have these resource guides. They will save lives and it is incumbent upon all of us to share them in order to protect children and ensure their future success."
The House Co-Chair of the Committee on Children, Rep. Liz Linehan, has made promoting children's behavioral health services a legislative priority. "I am incredibly thankful to have DCF fulfill our legislation with a very comprehensive list of supports available to children and families. What strikes me most is the convenience of Enhanced Care centers, who can see your child in crisis in as little as two hours; if it's not an immediate crisis you can be seen in as little as two days; or, for non-emergent mental wellness, you can be seen within two weeks. I am confident this is lifesaving information for so many children and the parents who love them. I urge all caregivers to bookmark the website, print out the resource guide, and keep it available for when you need it."
The effort was led by Tim Marshall, the Director of Community Mental Health at DCF, and one of the chairs of the Youth Suicide Advisory Board. Tim and his team collaborated with representatives from the Youth Suicide Advisory Board, DMHAS, DPH and the Behavioral Health Partnership Oversight Council (BHPOC). "The mental health needs of all of our children have increased. In addition to getting children and adolescents in a healthy routine, and being raised in a warm, safe, consistent, nurturing environment, parents can turn to this resource for additional mental health care and support," said Tim Marshall.
The team also reached out to providers to ensure the information was accurate and determined the best path for parents to follow when seeking mental health resources. Beacon Health Options was instrumental in assisting the Department with drafting the resource guides. Andrea Goetz, CEO of Beacon Health Options, reflected on their work during the pandemic. "The effects of COVID 19 on children are on the rise and we, as Connecticut’s behavioral health community, have pulled together to offer critical services needed for children and families. The ripple effects on children during the pandemic can include debilitating stress, anxiety, and depression. This guide supports parents with resources to access much-needed support and help in their area— in a way that works for their family. We look forward to a day when children can just be kids again.”
The guides will be updated annually. BHPOC will now distribute them electronically to hospitals so parents seeking help for their children in emergency departments can receive the information. The resource guides will also be shared with parents and guardians through their local board of education.