CT must protect the mental health of young people with these two bills

As students at Yale, we saw many of our friends go through mental health crises. This is nothing new for us: a huge 49.5% of adolescents have mental health problemseven before the COVID-19 pandemic.

As teenagers ourselves, we have experienced first-hand a mental health system in disarray, where those who need help the most are ignored. In most cases, the amount of mental health resources and funding deemed “adequate” falls far short of what is needed.

Abe Baker-Butler and Jose Sarmiento

How is a high school student with a mental illness supposed to get help from adults who underestimate his condition? How is a child, barely school-age, supposed to understand the emotions he feels when an adult does not know how to guide him? Worst-case scenario, how can a teenager be expected to figure out on their own how to cope with the loss of a dear friend to suicide? Our system leaves children and young adults floundering with few resources and feeling like they have no one to turn to.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed mental health and behavioral services across our state to the brink, exposing deep cracks in Connecticut’s mental health system as waves of children needing health care Mental health emergencies flocked to emergency rooms and school nurses. In December 2021, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy published an urgent warning on the “need to address the national youth mental health crisis“.

Despite a clear need for expanded mental health services, Connecticut currently has few standards and insufficient funding for trauma-informed mental health care and teacher training, especially in schools. There are also glaring inequities in who can access mental health care in Connecticut and who provides it, with racial minorities greatly underrepresented in mental health practice. Connecticut rules also currently prohibit telemental health by out-of-state providers, blocking an important way to ease the burden on out-of-state providers.

HB5001 and SB 2, two bills currently awaiting a vote in the Connecticut General Assembly, would address the growing mental health needs of Connecticut’s youth. From instituting universal pre-kindergarten in SB 2 to improving the availability of mental health resources for children and youth in HB 5001, these two bills would demonstrate a welcome new prioritization of mental health. young people.

HB 5001 would provide unprecedented scholarships and student loan forgiveness to LGBTQ+, racial minorities, and disabled applicants for mental health licensure. In 2015, 86% of American psychologists were white, while only 4% were African American. This is due to a combination of the racial wealth gap and the exorbitant costs of social work education, and HB 5001 is a justice-focused investment in diverse mental health providers from marginalized and low-income backgrounds.

A workforce of therapists and mental health professionals that truly represents Connecticut’s demographics is quite significant, as numerous studies have shown that black patients often have worse outcomes with non-black therapists who don’t. lack the historical and cultural mastery necessary to provide quality, compassionate care. . At the same time, HB 5001 would institute trauma-informed education and new grant programs to fund mental health initiatives in Connecticut schools, as well as a statewide trauma coordinator position. newly created.

SB 2 would institute universal pre-K for all Connecticut children ages 3 and older, which would bring many benefits ranging from higher incomes to reduced crime and unemployment, as well as better health outcomes. middle and high school mental health.

These benefits, when aggregated, add up to more than $83 billion per year, especially when including the benefits that quality child care through kindergarten has over the increased participation of mothers in the labor force. -work.

Additionally, SB 2 mandates later high school start times, which may seem trivial, but are actually extremely important in meeting the physical and mental health needs of students. Later high school entry times allow adolescents, whose biological clocks are naturally ready to stay up laterto sleep longer and reach the recommended amount of sleep of eight to 10 hours per night. Lack of sleep is incredibly common among high school students and is associated with serious risks including obesity, alcohol consumption, tobacco and drug use and poor school performance, as well as depression and mental health issues.

These are just a few of the many significant provisions of HB 5001 and SB 2, which will make monumental strides toward meeting the mental health needs of Connecticut’s youth. By relaying the cries of teenagers everywhere, we implore legislators to get these bills across the finish line. This is imperative to protect the health of our generation and the future of our state.

Abe Baker-Butler and José Sarmiento are freshmen at Ezra Stiles College at Yale University in New Haven.

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