June 1, 2023

Contra Mare

Slick Healthy

CT school superintendents need more funding for mental health, security

Nearly 10 years after the Newtown massacre shocked the country, Connecticut’s school safety programs are among the best in the nation, but more funding to tackle student mental-health issues and the hardening of school campuses to prevent armed intruders are needed at a time of limited financial resources.

That was the message on Friday that school superintendents gave to U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who told them that negotiations in Washington seem closer to a bipartisan deal – possibly this weekend – on a so-called red-flag law to remove firearms from people who might harm themselves or others.

During a 45-minute-long virtual round table meeting with educators and a representative from the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, school administrators said that it’s tough to find residential treatment programs for troubled children, because health insurance falls short in coverage and many parents cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket.

“My understanding from some of the psychiatrists that we have worked with in our district is they don’t accept insurance because insurance reimburses them at a ridiculously low rate,” said Maureen Brummett, school superintendent for Newington.

“We are approved for five school-based health centers in our district,” said Christine Carver, Bethel’s school superintendent. “Only two of those five can we get workers to work in. We have the funding. We have the mechanism to have it, but we don’t have the mental health personnel to do that. When we go to outside agencies to really get support above and beyond what we can provide in schools, there is just no access.”

Carver gave the recent example of a four-year-old in crisis who stayed five days in a hospital emergency room because there were no residential treatment beds available. “If we would figure that out, I think we’d make tremendous progress in terms of solving long-term outcomes,” she said, describing the Bethel police as “fabulous” in making daily wellness visits to school campuses.