HARTFORD — Joined by State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) Commissioner Patricia Rehmer and state and local law enforcement officials at Capitol Region Mental Health Center, Governor Dannel P. Malloy today unveiled a comprehensive plan to focus significant attention and resources toward improving the mental health system for Connecticut citizens.
“Since the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut continues to focus significant attention and resources toward improving the mental health system for all of Connecticut’s residents,” said Gov Malloy. “This plan builds on our progress and allocates additional resources to improve critical services for young adults, families and law enforcement personnel. My budget proposal invests substantial additional resources into areas not addressed in initiatives related to last year’s legislation on gun violence prevention, mental health and school safety.”
Gov Malloy has repeatedly identified stigma as a significant barrier to individuals and families seeking help. To address this barrier, the budget includes $250,000 for an anti-stigma campaign intended to promote an accepting environment where individuals suffering from mental illnesses will not be ashamed to seek treatment.
The governor’s budget dedicates $5 million, when fully annualized, to improve mental health services for underserved populations. Among other things, this funding will support residential and transitional services for individuals with serious mental illness, including young adults.
The budget also provides $2.2 million in new funding to support housing through Rental Assistance Program vouchers (RAPs) and services for 110 individuals with mental illness. By expanding access to housing, these vouchers will provide individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness the stability they need to succeed in their recovery.
The governor is proposing a legislative change to require all police officers in Connecticut to receive training regarding responding to situations involving people with mental illnesses. This Crisis Intervention Team training focuses on the use of effective verbal intervention skills to help recognize and de-escalate potentially violent situations and will, says the governor’s office, improve awareness of situations that would otherwise result in injuries, shootings and arrests of distressed persons with serious mental illness. Currently, this is a one-time training that is not mandatory.
“This proposal represents a significant step forward both in funding for treatment and toward the very important goal of realizing that mental health issues can no longer be ignored or hidden,” Lt Governor Nancy Wyman said. “It sends a strong signal that we need to engage everyone in the effort to identify and better connect those in need with services that meet their unique situation. My hope is that we look back on this as a time when we started to make real progress on a very difficult and far-reaching problem that affects so many lives, and so many futures.”
“This proposal is another step in the enhancement of municipal and state police officer training,” said Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben F. Bradford. “I would like to thank Governor Malloy for his continuing support of the law enforcement community.”
The initiatives will be administered by the State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS). Many of the investments in the health and human services budgets further ongoing initiatives that are expected to result in better health outcomes while eliminating disparities and improving quality and experience at a lower cost.
“Governor Malloy’s announcement further illustrates Connecticut’s commitment to continuing the dialogue and support for mental health,” said DMHAS Commissioner Pat Rehmer. “Our mental health system is strong, however, it is vital that we continue to engage residents across the state in recovery and these enhancements will work towards achieving this goal.”
In addition, the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) will partner with families, youths, communities and experts to develop a plan to improve mental health services for children. The plan will be given to the General Assembly next fall under a law it passed in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.
The governor’s budget will also reinvest $2 million in DCF to expand community-based services for children and youth with complex behavioral needs.
The proposals will be included in the governor’s legislative package for the upcoming 2014 regular session of the General Assembly, which begins February 5.