Connecticut’s growing youth mental health crisis is attracting increased attention across the state and, in many places, is spurring action.
legislators He called it “The Specific Case.” From the 2022 legislative session, the adoption of three broad measures that will expand and enhance access to children’s mental health resources.
Some communities have also taken their own steps to expand child mental health services.
But when a proposal was made to the small community of Killingly in northeastern Connecticut earlier this year for a grant-funded school mental health center, the local board of education said no.
After the council voted 6-3 to reject the proposal on March 16, concerned parents and residents filed a complaint against the council on April 5. Three days later, the chairman of the board, Janis Jolly, resigned.
The state Department of Education is now investigating whether the vote to reject the motion violated the “state educational interest.”
Here’s what you need to know:
What is the proposed mental health center at Killingly High School?
Last year, the Killingly Board of Education asked the Generations Family Health Center to submit a proposal to open a school mental center at Killingly High School. He was going to provide behavioral health services to students.
Generations, a Willimantic-based healthcare organization, planned to have therapists working at a nearby school health center in Putnam. They would come part-time, three days a week to start until the size increased and full-time therapists became necessary.
Referrals can come from parents, a school nurse, or an outside health care provider. Students can also self-refer.
Generations had an insurance bill, but the students were not charged outside of the insurance bills. And from the first contact, “parental/guardian consent and involvement is initiated, and emphasized as essential to successful treatment,” according to a presentation given by Generations.
In the presentation, the health center also said they would not charge Killingly Public Schools for services.
Why does Killingly want students and teachers?
The murderous teachers and students have been pleading for help to tackle what they say is a burgeoning mental health crisis.
In a nonprofit mental health organization exploratory study Late last year for Killingly students in grades seven through twelve, nearly 30% of respondents reported having thoughts about harming themselves. and 14.7% made suicide plans.
At meetings in March and April, many students told the local council that they needed mental health care. The students said they experienced trauma before the pandemic, and then have spent the past two years isolated from their friends and living through a global pandemic.
In interviews with the CT Mirror, school staff told stories of students who had anxiety attacks and needed to call 211 to get mental health services for children under 8. Parents spoke of their children’s mental illness, suicide attempts, and the need for treatment. Students said they were hurt and didn’t feel heard.
Interviews with dozens of people involved in the school district show a pattern: Children are screaming for help, and they say the responsible adults didn’t give it to them.
Why do some oppose the mental health center?
Conversations around the health center were tainted with political rhetoric. Those who opposed it had complained more commonly before The Political Right: Abolition of Culture, Hillary Clinton, Abortion, Gender Identity.
Some board members questioned whether a mental health center would violate parental rights, and others question whether schools are the best place for mental health care.
Democrat Lydia Rivera Abrams, who voted against the center, said her vote hinged on her concerns that children without IEPs would not be able to get immediate help if they were in crisis. She said she didn’t want them to have to wait for appointments if they needed help now.
She said she would also like to see more family therapy and parental involvement. She proposed an alternative plan for the health center that would add new jobs to the 2022-23 budget using the unexpired district account, earmarked for emergencies.
But others – such as Norm Ferron, the current chairman of the board – said they were concerned that children might be getting advice on “controversial topics”.
“Basically,” he said, “what is alien to a parent could be advising their child on any issue.” “Maybe they are giving them advice that goes directly against the parents’ opinions.”
What happens in Killingly is not unique. In communities across the country, conservative parents and Board of Education members have opposed school mental health support such as social and emotional learning, saying it is a subversive way to infiltrate teachings about critical race theory and gender identity in public schools.
How did Connecticut get involved?
On April 5, dozens of Killingly residents submitted an official memo complaint to the State Department of Education, alleging that the Board of Directors “failed in the educational interest of Connecticut by failing to provide the minimum services and support necessary to address the social, emotional, and mental health needs of Killingly High School students.”
The state’s educational interests are described in Connecticut state law. They include, but are not limited to, that each child has an equal opportunity to have an “appropriate program” of educational experiences, that each district funds educational programs at a reasonable level and that each district will provide the opportunity for students to interact with students and teachers from other racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.
The complaint says that students’ mental health needs must be met in order for them to learn.
On April 11, the state agreed to investigate the case, which is unusual.
“You don’t see a lot of these things happening,” said Eric Scoville, a spokesperson for the Department of Education. “Only speaking… when too much evidence is presented.”
what happened after that?
On August 8, the state summoned the Killingly Board of Education members and the supervisor to answer further questions about whether the board’s refusal of the grant-funded mental health center violated the state’s educational interests.
in I sent a message to Killingly officials on Mondaythe state Department of Education said the “questions … emerged” after a “thorough and time-sensitive” review of a number of issues raised in the April complaint from parents that the board initially responded to in May.
Among them: When Killingly applied for some federal grants, she said she planned to create a “school health center” that would provide social and emotional support to students. The board later decided not to establish a school health center, despite the $3.2 million federal grant. The Ministry of Education would like to know more about how and why the Board of Directors made this decision.
The state also wants clarification on whether there is enough funding to add more staff to deal with students’ mental health needs as an alternative to a health center. The state asked how many students the district had placed in out-of-area remedial programs “because of the determination that… [the students’] It needs support that is beyond the region’s capabilities to provide.”
The state offered four dates in late August as meeting possibilities.
The newly appointed attorney for the Board of Education Killingly requested late last week that the meeting be postponed so she could review the documents. The documents show that the complainants’ lawyer objected to the request.
After the investigation ends, Commissioner Charlene Russell Tucker will make a recommendation to the state Board of Education, either saying it doesn’t believe there is enough evidence to substantiate the claim or recommending a treatment plan for the district to fix the problem, Mike said. McKeown, the legal director of the Department of Education, in a previous interview.