Sen. Somers wants a study on social media impact on kids

January 26, 2022

(From the Waterbury Republican-American)

Senate Republicans are proposing a state study to examine how social media affects the mental health of Connecticut students.

The proposed study is part of a package of mental health proposals announced Wednesday during a news conference outside the state Capitol.

The Senate Republicans are recommending selecting two schools that have roughly the same number and composition of students and having one prohibit mobile phones at school over the course of the study.

At the end, independent researchers would then evaluate and compare the number of mental health issues that students from the two schools experience to draw conclusions and make recommendations.

The University of Connecticut would oversee the study, including the selection of the research consultant and two schools that would participate on a voluntary basis.

The study’s findings will offer insights into how social media platforms are acting on the mental wellness of Connecticut students and possible responses, said Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, one of the two ranking Senate Republicans on the Public Health Committee.

Senate Republicans have been rolling out a legislative agenda for the upcoming General Assembly session that opens Feb. 9. The subject on Wednesday was mental health.

There are several proposals for expanding availability and insurance coverage for mental health services.
One recommendation is making telehealth permanent. The legislature temporarily expanded health insurance coverage for telehealth through June 30, 2023.

Another proposal would require the state’s Medicaid-funded HUSKY health insurance program to include certain licensed social workers with master’s degrees among the professionals that qualify for reimbursement.

To expand the workforce, a tuition reimbursement program is being proposed for mental health providers who commit to practice in the state for a specified period of time.

The Senate Republicans also propose the formation of a working group of hospital professionals and mental health providers to collaborate with the state Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services on plan for increasing treatment opportunities for children.

There is also a recommendation for school-based family care coordinators to work with school psychologists and social workers on helping connect students in need to mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery.

The Senate GOP plan focuses on maternal mental health, including increasing screening for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and ensuring insurance coverage, requiring training regarding PMADs for health care providers and providing patient education, and examining the feasibility of home health visits.

Senate Minority Leader Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford, said the Senate Republicans had not priced out the estimated cost of their mental health proposals, but he said the state cannot afford the social costs of not responding the mental health crisis.