Before the pandemic, an estimated 1 in 5 children in the United States met criteria for a mental illness each year. The pandemic has resulted in rising rates of anxiety and depression in children, particularly in the most vulnerable families, increasing the need for services and compounding the long-standing strain on the behavioral health system and its workforce.
State and national leaders have acknowledged children’s behavioral health crisis in response to requests from families, advocates and providers. In Connecticut, recently passed legislation will fund expansion of services such as B. additional inpatient beds, new acute and sub-acute care levels and extended opening hours for mobile crisis services. This investment in direct care is critical to bridging the gap between needs and available services, especially for the state’s most vulnerable children. However, services cannot be implemented and sustained without a proper investment in the behavioral health workforce.
The following recommendations will empower child behavioral health staff. These recommendations should be integrated and aligned with existing Connecticut groups working on this issue, including the Governor’s Workforce Alliance, Ready CT, and the Connecticut Recruitment and Retention Learning Collaborative, among others.
Specifically, Connecticut should:
1. Develop a comprehensive strategic plan for behavioral and healthy childcare staff. Government can benefit from an inclusive, efficient and sustainable approach that improves the supply, retention, diversity and career paths of the workforce. To identify changes in funding, policy and practice, a comprehensive strategic plan should be developed with short- and long-term strategies that is data-driven and informed by multiple stakeholders, including payers, employers, employees, researchers and living experience families .