Children Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-972

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING CHILDREN AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH.

Vote Date:

3/12/2013

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/5/2013

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Children Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

In response to recent events in Connecticut, this bill addresses children's mental health needs in order to improve behavioral health supports for children.

For Substitute Bill 972 (as contained in LCO No. 4519): Basically strikes the original Raised Bill language and replaces it with new language. Substitute Bill establishes a Youth Mental Health Care system to be developed and implemented by the Department of Children and Families in consultation with other Departments and agencies. The system must be developed according to a master plan. Very detailed expectations are outlined in the Substitute Bill. The Youth Mental Health Care system shall: (1) strengthen families through a system of home visitation programs; (2) increase the awareness of mental, emotional or behavioral health issues within elementary and secondary schools; (3) improve the current system of addressing mental, emotional or behavioral health issues in youths; and (4) provide public and private reimbursement for some services. Substitute language gives more details for (1) through (4). Sec. 2 (a) establishes a Nutrition, Genetics and Psychotropic Drugs Task Force to study the effects of nutrition, genetics and psychotropic drugs on the mental, emotional and behavioral health of children within the state. Substitute Bill outlines task force members and what it shall do. Not later than September 30, 2014, the task force shall submit a report to the Children's Committee on findings and recommendations. The task force shall terminate on October 1, 2014.

Note: Testimony below is on Raised Bill 972 to conduct a study to evaluate the current behavioral health support system available to children.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Elaine Zimmerman, Executive Director, CT Commission on Children: “Our mental health programs are not coordinated or linked to systems, such as schools, in ways that would maximize referrals and alignment.” CT needs an interconnected framework of supports in which schools, mental health, child and family services, and early childhood programs are organized in a continuum of intervention services to ensure children with emotional-behavioral problems have access to good mental health services. We need a system of home visitation. What we have now is program by program, town by town. Home visitation needs to be integrated with early care and education.

Jamey Bell, CT Acting Child Advocate: “Wise public policy dictates supporting a child's optimal social-emotional development from birth. The most cost-effective approach to optimal mental health is to start in the earliest years to promote healthy brain development and strong and nurturing attachments.” “Senate Bill 972 mandating a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the current behavioral health support system to children throughout the state would provide a much-needed organizing and evaluation component, thereby increasing our understanding and the accountability of this critically important system.”

Victoria Veltri, CT State Healthcare Advocate, CT Office of the Healthcare Advocate (OHA): Our findings show a need for an integrated behavioral health system, with an emphasis on early intervention and prevention as well as a comprehensive and innovative approach to delivery of necessary services. OHA believes that Connecticut can develop innovative, clinically appropriate and cost effective behavioral health systems for the citizens of Connecticut, and supports SB 972.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

State Representative Mary Mushinsky, 85th District: I support, and thank the committee for their concern for children's behavioral (mental) health. Program Review and Investigations has two bills covering this subject - HB 6517 (enforcing parity compliance) and HB 6557 (using the grievance process). PRI's study determined that private insurers are not treating mental health in young adults with parity to physical health, as required by state and federal law. “Children who are not treated early for mental illness only get worse. Youths with untreated mental health problems become an enormous financial and societal burden for our state.”

Abby Anderson, Executive Director, CT Juvenile Justice Alliance: Many children, whose primary issues are mental health related, end up in the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system is the most expensive way to treat children and youth with mental health needs.” Every child deserves access to mental health services irrespective of insurance status, setting, or system involvement. The children's mental health system is disjointed, complicated, and confusing for practitioners and families.

Dr. Mary Jane Williams, CT Nurses Association: In 49 years of practicing nursing, has watched resources for behavioral health services decline. It is essential that we make available resources and services that support the healthy growth and development of our most important resource – our children. In order to provide resources, we need to ascertain what is available and its effectiveness.

AnnMarie Meacham Duffy: A certified school psychologist. Service providers need to be identified across settings. The study should survey the range and number of services from early prevention to more intensive treatment options. This knowledge is needed to form a continuum of care and coordination of services which would be a cost effective way of maximizing services.

Sara Frankel, Public Policy Director for Children, Youth and Young Adults, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of CT: NAMI supports such a study, as we are well aware that current system needs improvement. NAMI would like to a children's behavioral health system to – ensure access to quality community health services for all CT's children, promote early identification and intervention of mental health problems in young children, expand and improve access to school-based and school-linked mental health services, and ensure that quality mental health services are adequately reimbursed and funded.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None Expressed

Reported by: Rico Dence, Asst. Clerk; and Elizabeth S. Giannaros, Clerk

Date: March 26, 2013