Prioritizing mental health care for all

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Stamford, like many Connecticut communities, faces growing mental health issues that have no doubt been exacerbated by COVID-19. Although COVID-19 did not create these challenges, it undeniably intensified them. Too many families struggling with mental illness already faced barriers to treatment before the pandemic, including stigma, lack of insurance coverage, shortage of providers, or language barriers. These families are now facing a perfect storm: heightened mental health needs just when access to care is more difficult than ever.

More than half of all Americans report that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health, and 40% of Connecticut adults say they have experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression since the pandemic began. Workers and small business owners continue to face economic stress, healthcare workers live with the trauma of treating patients during a pandemic, and we all face continued uncertainty. The problem is particularly troubling for our children: one in six young people in Connecticut suffers from a mental health disorder each year. Unfortunately, despite rising rates of mental illness, our state still struggles with accessibility; more than one million Connecticutans live in a community that does not have enough mental health professionals. It’s clear that this is a crisis that needs to be addressed urgently, and my own personal conversations with dozens of Stamford residents have proven that mental health is a top priority for our community.

That is why my administration is prioritizing measures to improve mental health resources for our community. At our first Citizen Service Center at Lathon Wider Community Center, we heard concerns from many residents who said they didn’t know where to go if they had a mental health issue and that there was no centralized list. with mental health resources. In response, we’ve rolled out a new mental health resource page on the City’s Department of Health website that includes a comprehensive collection of mental health and community support resources, which you can find here. The Mental Health Resources page is intended to serve as a conduit for those in crisis or those concerned about a loved one who is or may be. We will continue to update this page regularly, so that it highlights the resources available to Stamford’s diverse population and we encourage you to share with anyone you know who is struggling and in need of resources.

Last week, I joined mayors and nonprofit leaders at the State Capitol in Hartford to advocate for the state’s historic $1 billion investment in youth across the country. Connecticut. The Connecticut Youth Investment Plan seeks to use a combination of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding and general fund revenue to establish a system of youth programming at the state and local level. In Stamford, this would bring unprecedented resources and funding for youth employment and learning, after-school and summer programs, community centers and mental health services to help our young people thrive. I look forward to working with my fellow mayors, municipal leaders, former legislative colleagues and the governor’s office to ensure we pass this law.

We are also working to improve mental health resources within the Stamford Police Department and recently secured a $550,000 grant from the US Department of Justice to add another social worker to the department to improve responses to people facing mental health issues. To date, 75% of the police department is trained in crisis response training and partnering side-by-side efforts with community organizations helps those suffering from a mental health and addictions crisis. Stamford Police have also incorporated an Adaptive Mental Health Patrol Response to better respond to mental health calls.


My administration is also working with local public health officials and nonprofit organizations on a collaborative youth mental health initiative that aims to move the narrative of the mental health crisis from just a “school problem” to a problem that requires a community approach. strategy. We look forward to involving service providers, residents and youth in these discussions.

I know that addressing our city’s mental health challenges will not be easy, but no individual or family should have to go through this alone or without access to essential services and resources. It is time to prioritize mental health care over physical health care and I pledge to do so. We are all in this together and I encourage everyone to continue to be mindful of your own mental health and to watch your loved ones, friends and neighbors. A simple call just to say hello can go a long way.

Caroline Simmons is mayor of Stamford.

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