Considered one of the top issues in the state Capitol this year, the children’s mental health crisis in Connecticut and elsewhere has spurred several proposals now under consideration by lawmakers.

Although the system needed improvements before the pandemic, experts say that health providers have seen a dramatic increase in kids seeking emergency psychiatric care over the last two years.

The number of children and teens waiting in emergency departments for inpatient psychiatric beds in Connecticut grew from 26 to 56 between Feb. 1 and 21, according to the Connecticut Hospital Association. An average of 38 children waited for care on any given day during that time — of those 38, an average of 31 were between 13 and 17 years old, and 7 were 12 years old or younger.

Legislators have hosted forums with behavioral health professionals, state officials and child experts to discuss how the children’s mental health crisis has led to overwhelmed pediatric emergency rooms. They also have examined what improvements to behavioral health services could be made in school districts and surrounding communities throughout the state.

During a hearing last month, Dr. Manisha Juthani, Connecticut’s public health commissioner, echoed concerns about the need to improve accessibility in the behavioral health care system so families don’t feel like emergency departments are their only choice.

“In the last several months, we still do see problems,” Juthani said. “It is throughput from all the different areas of health care services and behavioral health that can be provided in the outpatient setting to try to prevent children from ending up in the emergency department.”

Senators have raised two bills aimed at addressing children’s mental health in schools and across early childhood broadly. Legislators in the House have also floated a sprawling proposal that ties in funding and services across medical centers, educational facilities and the community.

Here’s a look at what’s in the measures.

What’s in Senate Bill 1?

Lawmakers in the Senate have divided their efforts on children’s …….


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