On September 22 in Bridgeport stakeholders from a dozen health, special service and law enforcement sectors came together to explore gaps in Connecticut’s behavioral health delivery and how the state can do more to reach people in need.
Behavioral Health in Connecticut: A Scan of Our System
Expanding patient access to behavioral health care and increased coordination among clinics, physicians, law enforcement and policymakers could dramatically improve the lives of individuals living with mental illness in Connecticut. What actions can Connecticut take to strengthen its community-based mental health system and ensure a robust continuum of care?
On August 4, the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance, in partnership with the Behavioral Health + Economics Network (BHECON) led by the National Council for Behavioral Health, hosted a panel of experts across disciplines, who provided a scan of current challenges in access to mental health care in Connecticut, identified barriers that inhibit the delivery of services, and delved into policy changes needed to support a strong system that reaches all individuals at their point of need.
Reaching Children and Youth in Need
Panelists discussed the merits of community-based care in helping children and youth living with mental illness. Sarah Eagan, a childhood advocate, explained that the state is required to provide specialized services for children living with mental illness or learning disorders, including behavioral/physical health screening and a tailored education program. Yet, all too often, these services fall short. Abby Anderson, Executive Director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, commented that the juvenile justice system is the largest provider of behavioral health care to children and adolescents in the state—demonstrating that there is a lack of easily accessible community-based care for most young people and that policy reforms are needed.
In the past, police were ill-equipped to respond to people with mental health conditions. “We responded the way we knew: arrest or no arrest. Through the Crisis Intervention model, police officers now have more tools in their toolbox.” – Lt. Christopher McKee
Leveraging Federal Investments to Expand Access to Care in Connecticut
Chuck Ingoglia with the National Council for Behavioral Health addressed federal policy changes that could improve patients’ access to community-based care. He noted that in every state, individuals of all ages have trouble accessing the care that they need, positioning the criminal justice system as the de facto system of behavioral care in many communities. “Policy changes such as the Excellence in Mental Health Act could change how behavioral health services are delivered in communities. By expanding community providers’ capacity to care for more people in need, the Excellence Act will bolster our community treatment system and begin the process of reducing the role of the criminal justice system in caring for people with mental illness.”
“The strongest supports I have are in my community.” – Paul Acker (Advocacy Unlimited) on the importance of community-based services
Thank you to the sponsors: