Sen. Somers: CT’s mental health needs are many and immediate.

January 26, 2022

(CT Mirror)

Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, the ranking Republican on the Public Health Committee, said she and Steinberg already have talked about some of the GOP ideas.

Somers said the needs are many and immediate.

“We had a mental health crisis here in the state of Connecticut before COVID reared its ugly head,” Somers said. “We have a disjointed, disconnected system of care. There’s no continuum of care. People search for days to try to find help.”

The issues are financial but also turn on staffing shortages that require more than money.

The non-profit providers that are a central element of outpatient mental health care are suffering from low Medicaid reimbursement rates that make their salaries uncompetitive, costing them staff, said Michael Patota, the president and chief executive officer of the The Child & Family Guidance Center in Bridgeport.

Asked if staffing shortages or resources were his biggest challenge, Patota said, “Many of our staff are leaving to go to higher-paid positions. So in my mind, they’re inseparable.”

The state has hundreds of vacant positions that are funded but go unfilled for an absence of qualified applicants.

Somers said one partial solution would be to allow HUSKY, the state Medicaid program for children, to reimbursement treatment by social workers who have master’s degrees but who have not yet qualified as licensed clinical social workers,

Some private insurers will reimburse for care by master’s-degree staff, so long as they are under the supervision of a licensed clinician, Somers said.

Antonia Edwards, who has complained of being unable to find care for a troubled granddaughter who killed her grandson nearly two years ago, said the state must act.

“My grandson died on my watch because there was no services available or due to the racial disparities and implicit biases,” said Edwards, who is Black. “We were discriminated against from getting services.”