Connecticut Children’s Hospital inspires federal grant for pediatric mental health care


Senator Murphy met with staff at Connecticut Children’s Hospital to celebrate the opening of a $60 million state grant program the hospital launched in January.

staff reporter

Yale Daily News

Connecticut’s emergency rooms have been inundated with psychiatric crises in children.

A mental health education initiative proposed to U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) of Connecticut Children’s, one of the state’s largest pediatric service providers, could help combat the surge.

Murphy and doctors from Connecticut Children’s got together in Hartford last Monday to celebrate Starts October 5th a $60 million federal grant that came from an idea originally brought to market by Connecticut Children’s. The grant will provide funding for medical schools and training programs to better educate their students on how to provide mental health care.

Funding was part of the bigger picture Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that Murphy has guarded through the Senate earlier this year after the school shooting in Uvalde, TX. The bill included provisions for specific gun control measures, as well as an increase in mental health care spending in the United States.

“We don’t talk about mental health like that and we don’t have bills like this,” Melissa Santos, Connecticut Children’s chief of pediatric psychology, told the news. “So we look forward to applying for funding and continuing this conversation. We want to work on it and take this opportunity and build on it to make something more sustainable out of it.”

Murphy visited the hospital in January to review legislative options to expand the 2016 Mental Health Reform Act, which he sponsored and helped sign the bill into law. The law modernized the grant application process, consolidated state grants for mental health and substance abuse, and expanded funding for them. However, the pandemic has aggravated the national mental health crisis.

“Pediatricians are witnessing the escalating mental health crisis facing young people in our clinics, offices and hospitals across the country,” Moira Szilagyi, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote to the news. “Managing this crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, requires comprehensive action to ensure all children have access to mental health services where they are, including in schools and pediatric offices.”

Providers at the meeting told Murphy that their emergency departments are overwhelmed with pediatric mental health crises. This problem isn’t unique to Connecticut Children’s; In 2021, the US Surgeon General issued a nationwide special advice on providing adequate mental health care to children.

Physicians at the meeting also told Murphy about the gaps in mental health education in current medical school and residency programs. In particular, physicians campaigned for better mental health education for paediatricians. Santos said almost every child in the US has a pediatrician, but very few pediatricians have the proper training to identify mental health issues and provide appropriate care.

Santos told the News that much of the information they provided to Murphy came from conversations between Connecticut Children’s pediatricians who shared the mental health education gaps in their own training.

After the meeting, Murphy “can’t stop thinking about the information” he heard, he wrote Twitter. The senator instructed his staff to find a political solution to close the education gap.

As the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act took shape, Murphy was able to include a $60 million grant that medical schools and training programs can apply for to provide their students with improved mental health education.

“The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provides $60 million to educate primary care residents in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental and behavioral health problems,” Murphy told the News. “When parents realize their child is struggling with mental health issues, many of them turn to their pediatrician first.”

Santos says Connecticut Children’s hopes to use the grant — which they are in the process of applying for — to strengthen their mental health curriculum for medical students and residents. Connecticut Children’s is the affiliate of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Quinnipiac University School of Medicine.

“Our providers are not sure how to ask about suicide or the risk of suicide,” Santos told the News. “If we win this grant, one of our goals is really to develop a curriculum that will help us teach students how to get comfortable with the language and assessment so that when a child comes to them, they help them can instead of turning to someone else. ”

Connecticut Children’s Hartford Hospital is located in 282 Washington St.


Yash Roy reports on City Hall and state politics for the News. He is also a production and design editor. Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, he is a sophomore at Timothy Dwight College with dual majors in Economics and American Studies.


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