Mental Health, Child Care Top Legislative Agenda – NBC Connecticut

Lawmakers have heard from parents who have struggled to find mental health services for their children. They’ve also heard from parents about how hard it’s been to find child care. Both centers around workforce shortages.

“There are so many issues that are there. If you look at the challenge we’re seeing in the emergency departments where the children are waiting for days to get into a bed,” said Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor.

Anwar says the problem existed before the pandemic.

“Even if we did not have the pandemic we would still be here with respect to the behavioral health,” Anwar said.

Children and adults are struggling to find the help they need. Some of that is related to insurance.

“Access to mental health care both for children and for adults, except for the services children get directly in school, it has become a new economic class,” Senate President Martin Looney said. “Because there is a new affluent class. Because there are people who can afford to pay $250 to $300 for every single week for therapy.”

Lawmakers say the mental health parity law they passed a few years ago didn’t solve the problem.

“Many people are going without care just because they cannot afford care and they cannot find a therapist who accepts insurance and if they do find one they still might find they are paying a lot in terms of copays because the insurance is so inadequate,” Looney said.

There’s also a shortage of child care workers.

“The child care workers are not able to sustain their personal living,” Anwar said.

Lawmakers say they want to increase wages for child care workers.

“We know we have to increase the wages for those workers because of the fact many times they leave to go work in public schools system because they get paid more, they get better benefits or they may just leave and go to another job that you would think would pay less,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said.

Lawmakers are looking to address both of these workforce shortages over the next three months but were unable to say how much it will cost.

“We want facilities to not only be staffed but to be staffed by people who are prepared to do their jobs,” Looney said.

The next battle for lawmakers will be over the price tag.

“We want to make sure if we are going to put some of that money we want our taxpayer money to go a long way,” Anwar said.

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