Sen. Somers, Southeastern CT legislators tackle mental health

February 13, 2022

Sen. Somers, Southeastern CT legislators tackle mental health

(From The Day of New London)

Among the many issues on legislators’ minds this session — such as taxes, crime, energy, COVID-19 recovery, the economy and government accountability — members of both parties have been naming mental health as a focus.

Widespread support for broadening access to mental health care stems from the widely held belief that people’s mental health has deteriorated due to the isolation and other factors caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

State senators and representatives from both parties, including Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, as well as Gov. Ned Lamont have said there needs to be legislation on mental health this session.

Somers helped engineer a Republican proposal with a series of policies geared toward greater access to mental health for children and, in general, maternal and workforce mental health, among other issues.

Somers touched on several aspects of the proposal, some of which have been introduced or discontinued before.

“Family care coordinators are meant to be in the school system — not paid for by taxpayers, I don’t want any mandates on school boards — but we could use some of the COVID relief funds” to hire these coordinators, Somers said. “They make the connection between school and mental health services, because school is the first place you notice it.”

She said in conversations with constituents, some have reported having to leave the state and go to Rhode Island or Massachusetts for mental health care because they couldn’t find someone here in Connecticut. Family care coordinators would find care within the state for them, she said.
In order to attract or keep more clinical social workers in the state, Somers and her party are supporting requiring the state Husky program to “expand the professionals that qualify for reimbursement to include a licensed social worker with a master’s degree who is working under the supervision of a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker,” according to a summary of the proposal.

Somers said social workers must work for 3,000 hours under supervision to be licensed, but finding that work and being paid appropriately for it can be difficult. “Certain insurance companies will pay for clients to visit you if you’re a master’s degreed social worker under supervision,” Somers said. “Husky, our state Medicaid, will not pay for that.”

Another aspect of the Republicans’ multipronged mental health proposal is a study on the effects of social media on children. Republicans are suggesting the University of Connecticut conduct the study.

“The parameters haven’t been set yet, but we have some ideas of looking at what would it be like in a certain environment, most likely a school, that doesn’t allow phones at all versus a school that does,” Somers said. “Words can really leave wounds, and I don’t think adolescents who are going through a lot of changes in their lives at that point are equipped to handle some of the negativity.”

Somers said Republicans are trying to expand telehealth options to help people who can’t seek medical attention in person, whether due to COVID-19, lack of transportation or other reasons. She acknowledged that doctors would often rather work in person, but telehealth can make health care accessible for segments of the population where it wasn’t before.

Other Republican policy proposals on health can be found at