Fasano Questions DCF’s Ability to Overhaul Youth Behavioral Health Care

October 8, 2014

Hartford –State Senator Len Fasano (R-34), Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore, released the following statement in response to the governor’s youth behavioral health plan announced today.

“I strongly support increasing state efforts to address the underserved mental health needs of Connecticut’s children, however, under current leadership, I question whether the Department of Children and Families is up to the task. I know that DCF employees work very hard to provide help in all of their cases, but after watching the DCF commissioner repeatedly make poor decisions that have jeopardized the safety and wellbeing of children, I have strong doubts about the commissioner’s ability to carry out this plan.

“This is the same DCF commissioner who unilaterally closed group homes serving kids with mental health needs; the same commissioner who has overseen a dramatic increase in the number of children locked up in prison-like settings at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and who pushed to open a similar prison-like facility for girls where the Child Advocate found that children were being abused by DCF; the same commissioner who has failed at her core responsibility, protecting children from abuse and neglect, with a record number of child fatalities involving youth under DCF supervision.

“Increasing treatment capacity for children with mental health needs is essential to improving care across our state, but these programs will only succeed if competently implemented. We need to seriously consider whether DCF currently has the expertise and ability to effectively implement such a broad ranging mental health overhaul. And we need to weigh our options. For example, while DCF has been failing, DMHAS has been succeeding in reducing the use of physical restraints at facilities under its jurisdiction. Commissioner Rehmer has an excellent reputation and the confidence of staff and providers. With its clinical experience and the sole task of implementing and overseeing mental health services, DMHAS may be the more appropriate agency to trust with this vital effort.

“DCF workers are already struggling to meet their statutory mandates and fulfill basic child safety functions, now may not be the time to add to DCF’s responsibilities. Given the bipartisan desire to vastly improve mental health services for children, now may in fact be the perfect time to reassess our delivery model, scale back DCF’s involvement in mental health services so that it can focus on its core child protective services, and allow the agency with the real expertise in this area to implement new programs.”