We like to think of young adulthood as a time when the world is an exciting place in which to be. But for one out of five Connecticut residents, that world is fraught with anxieties and fears as mental health issues cloud the scene. That population includes teenagers and young adults. According to TurningPointCT.org, 14.6 percent of Connecticut high school students have had serious suicidal thoughts this past year. Count Newtown’s youth in that statistic.
Hartford’s response to 12/14 took two distinct paths. Ironically, the path fraught with contention and strife — a package of stricter gun laws — was chosen quickly, by a determined governor working with the advantage of legislative majorities in the state House and Senate and political tailwinds emerging from the storm of shock and sorrow following the Sandy Hook tragedy.
A new state blueprint for children’s mental health services recommends standardized screening and enhanced school services, better training for all caregivers and the “pooling” of hundreds of millions in public funds to more effectively finance vital programs.
Newtown’s congressional representatives announced ten days ago that the town had secured another federal grant — this one $7.1 million from the Department of Justice — for mental health services and school safety measures. It is the latest infusion of money from the government in the wake of the December 2012 tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. It follows earlier grants from the Office for Victims of Crime and the US Department of Education’s School Emergency Response to Violence program totaling $4.7 million.
The task force established after the Newtown shootings to examine mental health issues among young adults released 47 recommendations Tuesday in what a key legislative leader described as a “blueprint” for future legislative action on behavioral health.
While many residents surveyed by volunteers of the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation continue to express a high degrees of anxiety, fear, and stress, it has also become evident that efforts to raise funds to assist these individuals with ongoing counseling are challenged to maintain the level of fundraising required to cover the related costs.
When the next legislative session begins in Hartford on Wednesday next week, Governor Dannel P. Malloy will outline his priorities in his formal budget message. The extent to which Newtown and the 12/14 tragedy in Sandy Hook has aligned priorities for the governor and legislators will be obvious.
When Governor Dannel P. Malloy appointed the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission a year ago, he charged the panel with “taking a broad systemic approach in crafting the recommendations that will lead to comprehensive legislative and policy changes that must occur following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.” He explained that this included “ensuring that our mental health system can reach those that need its help.” Like everyone else who has tried to answer the ultimate 12/14 question — why?