HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Communities across the state are grappling with a crisis in the mental health of children. The pandemic will have a lasting impact on everyone, especially the kids who suffered through it.

“The COVID pandemic obviously shook our whole world, shook the reality of adults, but certainly for our children, who are in those most vulnerable developmental years of life,” explained state Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani.

Children’s hospitals are at the center of the crisis. Connecticut Children’s hosted a roundtable discussion with pediatric mental health experts, including Admiral Rachel Levine, the Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“We do not have enough mental health professionals at all levels,” Levine said.

As a result, mental health care for kids often falls to schools.

“Meeting them where they are with providers who can help meet them where they are with the needs that they have is one of the great ways that we’re doing it here in Connecticut,” said Dr. Juthani.

Hartford’s Superintendent says academics and mental health used to be kept separate in schools.

“We’ve since merged and integrated, and now it’s part of our curriculum, not only to focus on the social, emotional component but there’s a trauma-informed approach because we really have to focus in on our most marginalized groups,” said Hartford Schools Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez.

Ever since Columbine in 1999, every school shooting has brought a new call for kids to see mental health professionals. For many, seeing a regular doctor is as close as they come.

“There has been a lot of discussion about integration of physical and mental health in primary care, and I think it’s absolutely critically important,” Levine said.

Plus, reaching out to parents, so they see the signs. The bottom line is the pandemic may have created mental health issues and almost certainly exacerbated existing ones.