HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Mental health has become a focal point for lawmakers at the state Capitol in Hartford. There were issues with access to services before COVID-19, but lawmakers say the pandemic has worsened the issue.

Senate Republicans unveiled a comprehensive plan Wednesday, arguing there is an urgent need for mental health services, citing statistics from Connecticut Children’s, which show more than 3,000 kids were treated last year for depression or anxiety. On average, they waited for 72 hours for a bed.

Republicans, joined by mental health advocates, want to expand access to services, make it more affordable, and increase the number of beds available to kids in crisis. 

A Bridgeport grandmother lost her grandson when his sister killed him. The young girl was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness. 

“I am fighting for other parents not to go through what I went through, and if I don’t do that, then my grandson has died in vain,” Antonia Edwards said. 

“We all talk about this crisis is not going to get resolved without fully funded treatment for children and their families,” Michael Patota, CEO of the Child & Family Guidance Center said. 

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from families who are struggling that I have to call in my favors to doctor friends to try to find them placement,” Sen. Heather Somers (R-Groton), the leading Republican on the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee said. “And if we do, it’s usually in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, or someplace hours away from family.”

Among some of the ideas Senate Republicans would like to see put in place:

  • Expand HUSKY Health to include master degree social workers getting more providers into the pool;
  • Make telehealth permanent;
  • Increase bed capacity at a facility solely for children;
  • More funding across the board to make coverage for outpatient therapy affordable.

While most of the ideas cover children in crisis, Republicans also proposed tackling postpartum depression for new mothers, including screenings, services and declaring May 5 as Maternal Mental Health Day statewide, recognizing healthy children are dependent on healthy mothers.