CT lawmakers expected to focus on children’s mental health

Supporting children’s mental health may be a topic in Committees that deal with children’s issues This session is a continuation of the work of legislators started with the last session over Three sweep bills Focus on children’s mental health.

Committee leadership and advocates said this week that both the education and children’s committees plan to focus on mental health, as well as other issues, including more support for teachers and preventing sexual offenses against children.

“I can’t imagine a time when the focus won’t be on children’s mental health,” said Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire and co-chair of the Children’s Committee. “We will focus entirely on helping children grow into happy, productive members of society.”

The continued focus on mental health comes as many young people across the country deal with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

Isolation and disruption to routine during the pandemic has exacerbated many existing children’s mental health issues, and in 2021 the US Surgeon General issued Consultant on the national youth mental health crisis.

December 2022 Report From the State Children’s Comprehensive Needs Study Task Force, they also discussed the need for more mental health care for people of all ages, including more support for children with trauma and more places for people to get health care.

Lawmakers called mental health the defining issue for last session, and the conversation expands beyond students, as lawmakers plan to stress the teachers themselves and how to reduce the emergence of stress and burnout and address the teaching shortages that have escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We can’t do any work in education unless we have teachers in the classroom,” said Representative Kathleen McCarty, Republican, who serves as the ranking member of the Education Committee. “We know that in this past pandemic, we really put an enormous amount of new responsibilities on our teachers to look into social, emotional and academic remedial practices. There have been more and more responsibilities on teachers, and they have gone through a lot of stress and anxiety trying to meet those needs.”

At a joint news conference Tuesday, lawmakers and members of the Connecticut Education Association discussed the importance of making teaching a more attractive profession, which begins with allocating money to increase salaries and offer better retirement options in hopes of diversifying the field, they said.

“Specifically in those communities of color… [students] “They see their teachers as stressed to the limit with everything they’re being asked to do,” said Rep. Jeff Corey, co-chair of the Education and Democratic Committee from East Hartford. “So why, in what world, would they want to do that?… It doesn’t make any sense at all. So if we can get additional resources to relieve some of their stress, we’ll hopefully see additional people who want to try and get into this profession.”

While many committees began the session with organizational meetings that included a few action items, the Children’s Legislative Committee began the session with a vote to work on approximately 20 measures, with details completed as the session progressed.

Linehan said the ideas and details of the bills will be subject to the public hearing process.

Republicans on the committee objected to this method of passing bills, saying they did not have enough detail to vote on an idea.

“I think we need to be a little bit more frugal with what we’re doing in terms of cost and effectiveness,” said Rep. Ann Duvenais, R-Killingly and ranking member of the Children’s Committee. Dauphinis added that she hopes to consider parental rights at this hearing.

The Children’s Committee leadership plans to address issues ranging from licensing municipal summer camps to safe storage of cannabis to creating a state police sting operations unit focused on online sexual abuse of minors.

The committee passed four bill titles addressing broadly children’s programs and safety, health and services. They also voted on a commission bill “on the mental, physical and emotional health of children”.

“We just jump in and go,” Linehan said in an interview.

Jenny Monk And Jessica Harkay Correspondents for The Connecticut Mirror (https://ctmirror.org/ ). Copyright 2023 © The Connecticut Mirror.

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