This article by Sam Smink appeared in WFSB News on July 20, 2023.
More help arrived for children under the age of 18 in Connecticut who need mental health services.
Thursday, a new Urgent Crisis Center for children who experience mental health or behavioral emergencies opened in Hartford.
The center will act just like an urgent care, but for mental health emergencies. Patients can show up unannounced or they can call ahead.
“All the families need to do is walk down this walkway, walk into this door and say ‘I’m here for some help,’” said Amy Samela, Village For Families And Children. “[The center is for] kids with chronic depression, and or anxiety, kids isolating in their room, kids having behavioral tantrums, kids who are displaying suicidal ideation or self-injurious behavior.”
Located at The Village for Families and Children campus on Albany Avenue, Samela, vice president of residential programs for the village, said the urgent crisis center can do it all.
“This is a place they can come in, get their needs met, become stabilized, get crisis intervention and get connected to care, all happening here in this building,” she said. “Yes, there’s a clinician, there’s registered nurses, there’s psychiatric providers, [and] wonderful family support specialists.”
The Hartford UCC is one of four in the state created to help emergency departments that have reported being overwhelmed with children seeking mental health help for years.
“Emergency departments are overwhelmed,” Samela said. “We’re not an overflow to the emergency room. We’re a deterrent to the emergency room.”
Samela added that the center’s mission is to deescalate a crisis, complete evaluations and connect patients to services in under 24 hours.
Youths there will never stay longer.
“We will work with everybody not to be ever worried [that] they don’t have income or insurance to meet their needs,” Samela said. “When in doubt, just come.”
The goal was to eventually be open 24/7. For now, it is only open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.