mental health

Lawmakers Aim to Get Parents Access to Services for Kids in Crisis

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A legislative committee held a forum to discuss what resources can be offered to children being affected by mental health problems outside of a hospital setting.

It’s a growing problem - your child is having a mental health crisis and you don’t know where to turn, or there are waitlists everywhere you do go. 

“We were designed to care for 12 children and our daily census now is somewhere around 30. Every child is seen. It may take longer,” Howard Sovronsky, chief behavioral health officer at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, says. 

Sovronsky says that doesn’t mean help isn’t available. 

“We’re not saying don’t come to the ED, if you come to the ED you’re going to be seen,” Sovronsky says. “Understand that in our current situation it may take a while before you see somebody.” 

The legislature’s Children’s Committee wants to give parents the resources they need to avoid ending up in the emergency department. That’s why they held a forum at the legislative office building. 

“We are seeing a lot more people going to the emergency department and we feel that if we provided them with all the tools they should be able to manage some of these challenges in their home,” Sen. Saud Anwar says. 

But it’s tough to know what to do. 

If you are in crisis, and you live in Connecticut, you can call 2-1-1 and press 1 for help. If you are outside Connecticut you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting 'Home' to 741741.

“Parents are telling me that they just don’t know what to do next. They see their pediatrician. They sometimes get a list of people to call in order to have psychiatric services for their kids, but there’s waitlists,” Linehan says. 

Another place to start is the schools. 

“There are licensed clinical social workers in the school district who can help your child,’ she says. 

“There’s been a doubling of numbers coming through the guidance department,” Ben Chaback, a licensed clinical social worker at Cheshire Public Schools says. 

Chaback says they are seeing an increase in self-harming behavior. 

“When a teacher observes a cut on a wrist and sends them to my office and I make the call home, that a lot of times surprises parents,” Chaback says. 

What is self-harm?

“Doing something physical to your body that hurts in order to release emotional pain,” Linehan says. 

Wednesday’s forum was focused on parents looking for any help they can get.

“There are a lot of services that are available for parents that maybe they don’t know about,” she says. 

“You can literally ask for help there’s a way to be able to ask for help,” Anwar says. 

One of those is the United Ways 211 phone line where you can access 24-hour mobile crisis services. 

“We need to figure out a strategy to take care of the immediate needs and what we need to do to take care of the long-term needs,” he adds.