Connecticut Opening 4 Mental Health Crisis Centers for Children, Teens

August 2, 2023

This article by Eva Zymaris appeared in WTNH on August 2, 2023.

There are four urgent crisis centers opening statewide to better address the mental health needs of children and teens.

These centers, which are strategically located across Connecticut, are operated by:

  • The Village for Families & Children in Hartford
  • Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven
  • The Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut in New London
  • Wellmore Behavioral Health in Waterbury

“We are committed to making sure the children that we serve are going to be happy, they’re going to thrive, and they know when they’re experiencing crisis, and fear, and anxiety, we’re here to prop them up,” said Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes, of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

Licensed by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the centers function as walk-in clinics, providing young people with immediate access to resources while they’re experiencing a behavioral health crisis, such as thoughts of suicide or self-injury and feelings of depression or anxiety.

“During the worst of COVID, we had a 2-1-1 hotline and I used to get reports on the nature of the calls,” Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) said. “Those first couple of months were, am I going to die? As time when on, those calls were more likely to be from young people saying how am I going to survive? And I’ve never felt so lonely in my life.”

That growing need and surge in calls led to emergency rooms becoming packed and overwhelmed. This will help divert families from hospitals and to these centers. However, if a child needs immediate medical attention, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest hospital.

“They can have quick service and be in a comfortable place and feel like they can be calm and safe there,” said Tenesha Oates, a parent.

Oates knows firsthand how critical this is. Her 13-year-old son visited one of the centers, The Village, and received support, care, and encouragement.

“Just because I’m having this issue, doesn’t mean my whole life is down the drain or there’s no hope,” Oates said. “I feel like it gives him a lot of hope for his future.”

The creation of these centers stems from 2022 legislation that put a number of resources in place.

State officials provided the following information on the efforts being made to improve mental health care in Connecticut:

  • The state is expanding on the emergency mobile crisis to be available 24/7 for children undergoing an acute psychiatric emergency
  • The Village will implement a crisis stabilization program for short-term care with a focus on behavioral health needs, transition planning and resources for when a child returns home
  • Officials will continue to support ACCESS Mental Health CT, a program in which a pediatrician can consult with a child behavioral health specialist to assist in diagnosing a behavioral health concern
  • Providing funds to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to build an inpatient psychiatric unit for children at the hospital for children with acute diagnoses
  • Development of a peer-to-peer support program in state schools in consultation with the Connecticut Department of Education
  • Providing funding to Wheeler Clinic for an intensive outpatient clinic in the Waterbury area that will serve 144 children each year
  • Implementation of the 9-8-8 behavioral health crisis hotline availability in state

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