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Urban: More mental health programs needed

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: theday.com

Published February 27. 2013 1:00PM   Updated February 27. 2013 1:23PM

State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, who is the co-chairwoman of the General Assembly’s Children’s Committee, said today that Tuesday's murder-suicide again shows the need for more mental health services such as a proposed mental health first aid program for parents and guardians that her committee held a hearing about on Tuesday.

Urban also sharply criticized Gov. Dannel Malloy for proposing to cut funding for school-based health centers such as one that’s recently been established at Pawcatuck Middle School. She said the centers can help family members reach out for mental health assistance in a comfortable environment without fear of being stigmatized.

“It’s a support system for people so we don’t end up with two little kids dead in a van at Lake of Isles,” she said. “That’s what we’re lacking.”

Referring to Malloy’s effort to bring companies to the state by offering large financial incentives, Urban said, “He’s paying companies to move from one place to another while closing school based health centers.”

“These companies can support themselves. What about these kids?” she said, adding data from school based health centers show they are effective.

During Tuesday’s testimony before the Children’s Committee on Senate Bill 654, Sheryl Sprague of the Connecticut-based Rushford Center said the 12-hour mental health first aid program gives members of the public without a clinical background the key skills to help someone developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis.

“As a public education program, Mental Health First Aid save lives, reduces stigma, improves mental health literacy and empowers individuals,” she told the committee.

She said that “it saves lives and will continue to save lives.”

Sprague urged the legislature to expand the bill to cover teachers and caregivers.

Urban said the class costs $75 and $150 a person and she envisions a public-private partnership to help fund it. She said the United Way is helping fund some classes.

“When you see two precious sweet babies who didn’t get a chance it breaks you heart,” she said.

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