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Connecticut Children’s Hospital inspires federal grant for pediatric mental health care

Yale Daily News

Connecticut’s emergency rooms have been overwhelmed with pediatric mental health crises.

A mental health education initiative presented to U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) by Connecticut Children’s, one of the state’s largest pediatric care providers, could help tackle the outbreak.

Last Monday, Murphy and doctors from the Connecticut Children’s gathered in Hartford to celebrate the Launch October 5 of a $60 million federal grant that stemmed from an idea originally pitched by Connecticut Children’s. The grant will provide medical schools and training programs with funding to better educate their students on how to provide mental health care.

Funding was part of the largest Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that Murphy guided through the Senate earlier this year after the school shooting in Uvalde, TX. The bill included provisions for specific gun control measures as well as an increase in mental health care spending in the United States.

“We don’t talk about mental health like this and we don’t have passing bills like this,” Melissa Santos, head of pediatric psychology at Connecticut Children, told The News. “So we are excited to apply for funding and continue this conversation. We want to work and seize this opportunity and take advantage of it to make something more sustainable.

Murphy visited the hospital in January to consider legislative options to expand the 2016 Mental Health Reform Act he sponsored and helped sign into law. The act modernized the grant application process, consolidated federal mental health and addiction grants, and expanded their funding. However, the pandemic has exacerbated the country’s mental health crisis.

“Paediatricians are witnessing the escalating mental health crisis facing young people in our clinics, practices and hospitals across the country,” Moira Szilagyi, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote to the News. . “Addressing this crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, will require comprehensive action to ensure that all children can access mental health services where they are, including schools and the practice. their pediatrician.

Providers at the meeting told Murphy that their emergency rooms were overwhelmed with pediatric mental health crises. This problem is not unique to Connecitut Children’s; in 2021, the United States Surgeon General issued a national advisory special notice to provide adequate mental health care to children.

Physicians at the meeting also informed Murphy of the gaps in mental health education in current medical school and residency programs. Specifically, doctors advocated for better mental health education for pediatricians. Santos said nearly every child in the United States has a pediatrician, but very few pediatricians have adequate training to identify mental health issues and provide appropriate care.

Santos told the News that much of the information provided to Murphy came from conversations among Connecticut Children’s pediatricians who shared mental health education gaps in their own training.

After the meeting, Murphy “kept thinking” about the information he had heard, he wrote on Twitter. The senator asked his staff to create a political solution to close the education gap.

When the bipartisan Safer Communities Act began to take shape, Murphy was able to include a $60 million grant that medical schools and training programs can apply for in order to provide better mental health care education to their students.

“The bipartisan Safer Communities Act provides $60 million to train primary care residents in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental health and behavioral health issues,” Murphy told the News. “When parents notice that their child has mental health issues, the first thing many of them turn to is their pediatrician.”

According to Santos, Connecticut Children’s hopes to use the grant — which they are applying for — to strengthen their mental health program for medical students and residents. Connecticut Children’s is the teaching affiliate of the University of Connecticut Medical School as well as Quinnipiac University Medical School.

“Our vendors are unsure of the proper way to ask about suicide or suicide risk,” Santos told The News. “So if we win this grant, one of our goals is to develop a program that helps us teach students how to learn about language and assessment so that when a child comes to them, they can provide help instead of referring to someone else. ”

Connecticut Children’s Hartford Hospital is located in 282 Washington Street


Yash Roy covers city hall and state politics for the news. He is also a Production & Design editor. A native of Princeton, New Jersey, he is a sophomore at Timothy Dwight College majoring in Economics and American Studies.

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