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Panel Will Seek Input on Children’s Mental Health Services

by Christine Stuart | Jan 15, 2014 11:05am
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Posted to: Health Care, Newtown

The Department of Children and Families is teaming up with the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut to hold at least a dozen forums across the state to gather public input on mental health services for children.

The review of the children’s mental health system was required under the legislation passed last year in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The report that will result from the forums is due to be submitted to the legislature by October.

Judith Meyers, president and CEO of the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, said there’s going to be several ways people can participate and offer their input about the current system. She said there will be forums and an advisory council. She said the review of the system will focus on all children, not just children in the DCF care.

She said most people aren’t aware that children who are on Husky insurance or those in DCF care have better access to mental health services than children whose parents have private commercial insurance.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Meyers said she would make every effort to get representatives of the insurance companies involved in the discussion.

Two years ago, Dr. Laura Saunders, a child psychologist at the Institute of Living, told a legislative panel that there are absolutely no private insurance plans in the state that cover in-home psychiatric services. She said the only carrier that covers it is the state’s Medicaid program for low-income families and children.

The only thing she can recommend as a provider is a higher level of care than is medically necessary for a child.

“If you have commercial insurance, we have to automatically divert someone to get voluntary services,” Saunders said during a legislative hearing in October 2012. “The lack of access is very, very unfair to these families with commercial insurance.”

Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, who co-chairs the legislature’s Children’s Committee, said part of the review of the children’s mental health system is about breaking down these types of barriers to care.

“With this law we are breaking down the silos within and across our agencies and establishing a new framework upon which to base the way we treat mental health care for all children and families in the State of Connecticut,” Bartolomeo said. “This braided system places the family at the center, with all services focused in on addressing and supporting the needs of the family.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is working with the 21-year-old gunman’s family to gain access to more medical information than was included in the state police report.

In October 2006, Adam Lanza was taken to the Yale Child Studies Center where he was evaluated by Dr. Robert King and later by Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Kathleen Koenig, who met with the youth four times through February 2007.

He was diagnosed with “profound Autism Spectrum Disorder, with a secondary diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.” Koenig prescribed Celexa, an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication and follow-up visits, but Nancy Lanza told Koenig her son was “unable to raise his arm” after taking the medication.

“Nancy Lanza stated due to her son’s symptoms, he would be discontinuing the use of the medication,” according to the interview Koenig gave police.

Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, who chairs the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, has said he has been in touch with a representative of Adam Lanza’s family in hopes of getting mental health records. He said the shooter’s father “wants to be cooperative.”

“He understands that this is a story that has to be told in order for us to enhance our own community safety,” Jackson said. “The mental health professionals have identified specific documents . . . that would be extremely helpful for them to understand what happened over the last seven or so years of Adam Lanza’s life.”

There also also the task force studying behavioral health services for young adults and the children’s mental health task force. Both are expected to submit recommendations to the legislature before the start of the 2014 session in February.

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