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Representative Welander Champions School-Based Mental Health Legislation

Representative Mary Welander (D-Orange/Derby/Woodbridge), Vice Chair of the Children’s Committee, has championed the passage of HB 6509, “An Act Concerning School-Based Mental Health Clinics.”  The Connecticut House voted 143 to 4 in strong bipartisan support to pass this legislation.

“Providing access to mental health services for students is more important now than ever.  Throughout the past few years, psychologists and physicians have noted a rise in anxiety and depression among youths, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this,” said Rep. Welander.  “It is critical to the success and overall health of children across the state that we remove as many barriers as possible that prevent access to these services.  When students receive access to early intervention services, we protect them from unnecessary trauma and create healthier school communities.  I would like to thank the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Public Health, the Connecticut Association of School-Based Health Centers, Representative Linehan, Chair of the Children’s Committee, and Minority Leader Candelora for their support in the passage of this legislation.  I am incredibly grateful that we are taking this step to address this issue”.

This bill will assess where student access to mental health services isn’t readily available across the state, and will create a plan for school districts to follow if they choose to address any identified gaps in services by developing either a school-based mental health clinic or a full school-based health center.  This legislation will also identify potential state and federal funding options, and allows clinic staff to participate in social-emotional learning professional development offered by the school districts to cultivate a comprehensive understanding of the school climate within that building.

According to the CDC, the proportion of children’s mental health-related Emergency Department visits increased 24% for children ages 5-11 and 31% for children ages 12-17 from April 2020 through October 2020.  “Connecticut Children’s Hospital continues to see similar increases of behavioral health patients in their emergency department.  With this rise in childhood depression and anxiety, creating clear pathways to these services is vitally important for the children and families of Connecticut,” said Rep. Welander.

Due to its importance, language from this legislation may also be incorporated in SB 1, “An Act Equalizing Comprehensive Access to Mental, Behavioral and Physical Health Care in Response to the Pandemic.”

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