The growing youth mental health crisis in Connecticut is drawing attention across the state and spurring action in many places.
Lawmakers called it a “crucial issue” for Congress in 2022 and passed three broad measures to expand access and strengthen resources for children’s mental health.
Some communities are taking their own steps to expand mental health services for children.
But when the small community of Killingley in northeastern Connecticut was presented with a proposal for a grant-funded school-based mental health center earlier this year, the local school board said no.
After the board rejected the proposal 6-3 on March 16, concerned parents and residents filed complaints with the board on April 5. Three days later, Director Janice Jolie resigned.
The State Department of Education is now investigating whether rejecting the proposal violated “state educational interests.”
Here’s what you should know:
What is the proposed mental health center at Killingly High School?
Last year, the Killingley School Board asked Generations Family Health Center to submit a proposal to open a school-based mental center at Killingley High School. It would have provided behavioral health services to students.
Generations, a Willimantic-based health care provider, planned to place therapists working at a school-based health center in nearby Putnam. They are part-time and he starts three days a week until the volume is built and a full-time therapist is needed.
Referrals may come from parents, school nurses, or outside health care providers. Students can also self-reference.
Generations would have charged premiums, but students were charged nothing but premiums. According to the Generations presentation, from the first contact, “parental/guardian consent and involvement begins and emphasizes that they are critical to treatment success.”
During the presentation, the health center also said it would never charge Killingly Public Schools for services.
Why did Killingly students and teachers want it?
Educators and students are flooding in for help in addressing what they say is a burgeoning mental health crisis.
In a survey late last year by the mental health nonprofit of Killingly students in grades 7-12, nearly 30% of respondents reported having thoughts about hurting themselves. Also, 14.7% are planning suicide.
At the March and April meetings, several students told local boards they needed mental health care. Students say they suffered trauma before the pandemic, then isolated themselves from friends for the past two years and survived the global pandemic.
In an interview with CT Miller, school staff told of a student who had an anxiety attack and needed to call 211 for mental health services for an 8-year-old. Parents talked about their children’s mental illness, suicide attempts, and the need for treatment. Students said they were hurt and not heard.
Interviews with dozens of people involved with the school district show a pattern: Children are screaming for help.
Why are some people against mental health centers?
Conversations about health centers are steeped in political rhetoric. Those who oppose it have more commonly filed complaints. Political Rights: Cancel Culture, Hillary Clinton, Abortion, Gender Identity.
Some board members question whether mental health centers violate parental rights, while others question whether schools are the best places for mental health care. Some people
Lydia Rivera Abrams, a Democrat who voted against the center, said her vote meant that children who do not have an individualized education plan would not get help immediately if they were at risk. She said she doesn’t want to have to wait for an appointment even if she needs help now.
She also wants to see more family therapy and parent involvement. proposed to the health center an alternative to add
But others, like current board chair Noam Ferron, said they were concerned that children would be counseled on “controversial topics.”
“Basically, a stranger to the parents can advise the child on any issue,” he said. maybe.”
What’s happening at Killingly is nothing special. In communities across the country, conservative parents and school board members oppose school-based mental health support, such as social-emotional learning, and push critical racial theories and teachings about gender identity into public schools. It states that it is a destructive method of sneaking in.
How is Connecticut involved?
On April 5, dozens of Killingley residents filed a formal complaint with the state Department of Education, stating that the Board “failed to provide the minimum services and support necessary to address the problem, and It failed to realize the state’s educational interests.” The social, emotional and mental health needs of students at Killingly High School.
State educational interests are set forth in Connecticut law. This includes ensuring that each child has an equal opportunity to receive an “appropriate program” of educational experience, that each school district funds educational programs at a reasonable level, and that each school district provides opportunities for students to interact. This includes, but is not limited to, serving with students and teachers of other races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds.
Complaints allege that students’ mental health needs must be met in order for them to be able to learn.
On April 11, the state agreed to investigate the matter, which is unusual.
Department of Education spokesman Eric Scoville said: “They only happen when a lot of evidence is provided.”
what happens next?
On Aug. 8, the state summoned members of the Killingley Board of Education and the superintendent to ask whether the board’s refusal of grant-funded mental health centers violated the state’s educational interests. Answered further questions about
In a letter sent to Killingley officials on Monday, the State Department of Education described a “thorough and time-sensitive review” of the many issues raised in April’s parent complaints to which the board first responded. ‘ After the review, ‘questions arose,’ said May.
Among them, when Killingly applied for several federal grants, he said there were plans to set up a “school-based health center” to provide social and emotional support to students. The board later decided against establishing a school-based health center, despite a $3.2 million federal grant. The Department of Education would like to know more about how and why the board made that decision.
The state also wants to clarify whether it has sufficient funding to add staff to address the mental health needs of students in lieu of health centers. I asked how many students they placed in out-of-district treatment programs. [the students’] You need guaranteed support beyond what your district can provide. “
The state has proposed four dates in late August for possible meetings.
A newly hired attorney for the Killingley School Board requested an adjournment of the meeting late last week so the documents could be reviewed. Plaintiffs’ attorneys opposed the request, documents show.
After the investigation was closed, Commissioner Charlene Russell Tucker made recommendations to the state school board asking if she did not believe there was sufficient evidence to support the allegations or if the district could make improvements to resolve the issue. Mike said he would either recommend the plan.