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

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

Yash Roy

01:07 am, October 26, 2022

Staff reporter

Yale Daily News

Connecticut emergency rooms have been overwhelmed by pediatric mental health crises.

A mental health education initiative presented to US Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) by Connecticut Children’s, one of the state’s largest pediatric care providers, could help combat the surge.

On Monday, Murphy and doctors from Connecticut Children’s gathered in Hartford to celebrate the October 5th launch of a $ 60 million federal grant from an idea initially launched by Connecticut Children’s. The grant will provide medical schools and training programs with funding to better educate their students on how to provide mental health care.

Financing was part of the larger Bipartisan Law on Safer Communities which Murphy drove through the Senate Before 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 that way and we don’t have bills like this approved,” Melissa Santos, Connecticut Children’s chief of pediatric psychology, told the News. “So we’re thrilled to apply for funding and continue this conversation. We want to work and take this opportunity and build on it to make it something more sustainable ”.

Murphy visited the hospital in January to consider legislative options for expanding the 2016 Mental Health Reform Act which he sponsored and helped sign into law. The act modernized the grant application process, consolidated federal grants for mental health and substance abuse, and expanded funding for them. However, the pandemic has exasperated the nation’s mental health crisis.

“Pediatricians are witnessing the escalation of the mental health crisis facing young people in our clinics, practices and hospitals across the country,” American Academy of Pediatrics President Moira Szilagyi told The News. “Addressing this crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, will require global action to ensure that all children can access mental health services where they are, including schools and the pediatrician’s office.”

Providers at the meeting told Murphy that their emergency rooms had been overwhelmed by pediatric mental health crises. This issue is not unique to Connectut Children’s; in 2021, the US surgeon general issued a nationwide document special advice about the provision of adequate psychological assistance to children.

Doctors attending the meeting also spoke to Murphy about the gaps in mental health education in current medical school and residency programs. In particular, doctors advocated better mental health education for pediatricians. Santos said nearly all children in the United States have a pediatrician, but very few pediatricians have the proper training to identify mental health problems and provide adequate care.

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

After the meeting, Murphy “couldn’t stop thinking” about the information he had heard, he wrote Twitter. The senator ordered his staff to create a political solution to bridge the educational gap.

When the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act began to take shape, Murphy was able to include a $ 60 million grant that medical school and training programs can apply for to provide better mental health education for their students.

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

According to Santos, Connecticut Children’s hopes to use the grant – for which they are applying – to strengthen its mental health curriculum for medical students and residents. Connecticut Children’s is the affiliated teaching institution of the University of Connecticut Medical School and Quinnipiac University Medical School.

“Our suppliers are unsure of the right way to inquire about suicide or suicide risk,” Santos told The News. “So actually one of our goals if we win this scholarship is to develop a curriculum that helps us teach students how to feel comfortable with language and assessment so that when a child comes to them they can provide help instead of refer to someone else. ”

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


Yash Roy covers city hall and state policy 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 a dual major in Economics and American Studies.

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