House Passes Historic Children's Mental Health Bill

May 2, 2022
Yesterday, in the House, we passed a historic, bipartisan bill aimed at addressing the immediate, intermediate, and long-term needs of the children's mental and behavioral health system in Connecticut.

Simply put, I believe this bill will save lives.

HB5001, An Act Concerning Children's Mental Health, is a transformative piece of legislation that responds directly to the youth mental health crisis, which has been exacerbated by the impacts of the pandemic, presenting itself in the form of increased rates of depression, suicide and self-harm among adolescents.

Emergency rooms across Connecticut are inundated with patients awaiting placement into inpatient psychiatric beds. Schools across the state are facing a shortage of mental health professionals and are sounding the alarm on the need to expand access and support services.

This legislation addresses these varying issues immediately and long term by:

Enhancing the Behavioral Health Workforce

  • Creates a partnership with Connecticut Children’s to co-ordinate a training program for pediatricians to treat early-stage mental health concerns.
  • Provides funding for the recruitment and retention of child and adolescent psychologists to address the state shortage.
  • Expands License reciprocity for out of state mental health professionals to increase the number of providers and establishes a need-based state licensure fee scholarship with a focus on diverse applicants.
  • Establishes grant program for local school boards, youth camps, and summer programs to hire mental health specialists.
  • Creates a screening tool for pediatricians and emergency room physicians to recognize mental health concerns in children for early intervention.

Expanding Behavioral Health Treatment Facilities Across the State

  • Creates an intensive outpatient counseling pilot program in Waterbury for a federally qualified health center to provide treatment for adolescents with behavioral health needs. The program, slated to open before Fall 2022, will serve at least 144 children per year.
  • Supports opening of the new DCF Urgent Crisis Centers specializing in meeting urgent pediatric behavioral health needs.
  • Expands ACCESS Mental Health to provide up to three follow-up telehealth visits directly to certain patients after a pediatrician has first utilized ACCESS Mental Health on behalf of a patient and to provide short term care coordination services, through a contractor, for all patients on whose behalf ACCESS Mental Health is utilized.

Increasing Access Through Insurance Coverage

  • Eliminates prior authorization for inpatient psychiatric services in certain circumstances where there is imminent danger in the patient's health or safety, or the health or safety or safety others.
  • Requires individual and group health insurers to cover intensive evidence-based services used to treat mental and behavioral health conditions in children and adolescents.
  • Requires individual and group insurers to cover collaborative care for behavioral healthcare.

The House has taken the first step, and now it’s up to the Senate to send HB 5001 to the governor’s desk for his signature. I will keep you updated as this critically important bill moves forward.