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DCF Behavioral Health Plan Will Focus on Early Identification

Ray Hardman

The state of Connecticut will begin developing a plan to meet the behavioral health needs of all the children in the state. The plan is required under legislation passed last year by the General Assembly in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The state Department of Children and Families will partner with families, advocates and experts to develop the plan, which will focus on ways to prevent and reduce the long-term negative impact of mental, emotional and behavioral health issues on children.

Judith Meyers, President and CEO of the Child Health and Development Institute -- which will work with DCF on the blueprint -- said the Newtown tragedy was a painful reminder of what happens when someone falls through the cracks of the behavioral health system. "In a more perfect world," she said, "it might have been prevented, but I think it's important to note that when prevention, early identification and successful treatment work, we don't hear about it. Because that's the beauty of prevention."

The process will unfold in three phases. The first phase will be the collection of input from families and other stakeholders on how the child mental health system can be improved.

The second phase will be a review of the draft plan. Phase three will be the implementation of the plan, and any revisions that might be needed.

State Senator Dante Bartolomeo said the finished product will be what she calls a braided system of services. "The braid is the services in and above, around and over and hovering that family," she said, "but always coming back toward the center, whether they're direct services at the time, or indirect services at the time."

DCF expects the plan to be completed by October.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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