Governor Lamont and Commissioner Dorantes Announce Opening of Four Children's Urgent Crisis Centers
Located in Hartford, New Haven, New London, and Waterbury, the Centers Provide Immediate Mental Health Services to Youths in Need
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes today participated in a ceremony at The Village for Families and Children in Hartford to celebrate the grand opening of the new children’s urgent crisis center operated by the nonprofit agency. It is one of four centers opening statewide created by legislation Governor Lamont signed in 2022 addressing the mental health needs of children and teens.
Licensed by DCF, the centers function as walk-in clinics, providing youths and their families with immediate access to resources while they are experiencing a behavioral health crisis, such as thoughts of suicide or self-injury; feelings of depression, anxiety, or hopelessness; out-of-control behaviors; substance misuse; and other mental health concerns. They are aimed at diverting youths and their families from making visits to emergency rooms to address behavioral health crises.
Current capacity for the four centers is 72 daily slots. They are strategically located across Connecticut and are operated by:
- The Village for Families and Children in Hartford;
- Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven;
- The Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut in New London; and
- Wellmore Behavioral Health in Waterbury.
“The mental health needs of children is an urgent issue that must be treated just as we do for any other public health situation,” Governor Lamont said. “These children’s urgent crisis centers are being created to provide an immediate and direct resource to families whenever a behavioral health situation arises among children and teens. The centers will provide intensive assessment, stabilization, and ongoing connection to care.”
“Seeking support is a sign of strength,” Commissioner Dorantes said. “We are grateful for the collaboration of Governor Lamont, the legislature, sister state agencies, and community partners in not only realizing the need for additional support for children and families but addressing that need in a real and tangible way. This work never stops – we will continue to improve state systems for those we serve.”
As Connecticut’s lead children’s behavioral health agency, DCF manages nearly $141 million annually in ongoing state and federal investments to implement and administer an array of community-based programs. Over the past year, a number of supports and resources stemming from that 2022 legislation have been developed or expanded by the agency, including but not limited to:
- Expansion of emergency mobile crisis for children to be available 24/7 statewide so providers can respond in-person to acute psychiatric emergencies. Additional resources will also allow mobile crisis providers to respond to schools when a child has an immediate behavioral health crisis rather than schools calling the police.
- Implementation of a sub-acute crisis stabilization program for short-term care at The Village with a focus on behavioral health needs, transition planning and resourcing to assist with the child’s return home. DCF is also in the process of establishing a separate program for short-term term care.
- Continued support for ACCESS Mental Health CT, an existing program in which a pediatrician can consult with a child behavioral health specialist over the phone to assist the pediatrician in diagnosing a behavioral health concern which may include issuing a prescription. If medication is prescribed, the child’s family will be referred to Carelon Behavioral Health and be connected with a mental health specialist for up to three telehealth visits at no charge to the family.
- Increasing the Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) provider reimbursement rate to improve quality, oversight of service and expand the number of providers to increase access to PRTF level of care. A new PRTF is funded in the fiscal year 2023-2024 biennial budget, which is now fully operational with 12 additional beds as a resource.
- Providing funding to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to build a children’s inpatient psychiatric unit at the hospital for children with the most acute diagnoses.
- Development of a peer-to-peer support program in schools in consultation with the State Department of Education and local school districts.
- Providing funding to Wheeler Clinic for an intensive outpatient clinic in Waterbury area that will serve 144 children annually.
- Development of an advertisement campaign with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to promote awareness and help individuals and families connect with local resources administered by both agencies.
- Implementation of the 9-8-8 behavioral health crisis (inclusive of suicide) hotline availability in Connecticut. Connecticut is one of the top states regarding response times for 9-8-8 calls.
- Implementation of an Urban Trauma Initiative, which is a network of clinical treatment providers developed in Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, and Bridgeport to provide interventions that focus on the impact of intergenerational racial trauma on young people (i.e., experiencing disproportionate levels of exposure to violence, poverty, unstable housing, etc.) especially in communities of color.
- Providing respite for non-DCF families through Care Coordination. Funds can be allocated towards in-home or out-of-home supports according to program limits and guidelines. Respite can be accessed by connecting to Connecting to Care CT.