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DECEMBER 09, 2015

Mental health funding has increased since Newtown But critics say core programs have been cut.

By SUSAN HAIGH Associated Press

HARTFORD — Connecticut is one of 11 states that have increased funding for mental health care every year since the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to a new national report.

The report released Tuesday also lauds the state for passing legislation that clarifies individual health plans must cover “nervous conditions” and school-based health programs include screening for behavioral or disciplinary problems.

But some mental health care providers in Connecticut contend the boost in state funding, highlighted in the National Alliance on Mental Illness annual survey of state mental health care legislation, does not tell the full story.

Unlike many other states, Connecticut has a dual system of state-operated human services programs and those run by not-for-profit agencies. Heather Gates, CEO of Community Health Resources, a nonprofit system that provides mental health, substance abuse, supportive housing and other programs in central and eastern Connecticut, said the more expensive state-run programs skew the overall figures.

“Connecticut, on a per capita basis, ends up looking like a well-funded service system in part because of the state-operated services included … and, compared to many other states, it is a well-funded service system,” she said. “It does not mean the most well-funded service system in the country is adequately funded.”

Gates said the increased funding for mental health care in Connecticut has also been targeted to mostly specialty programs, while funding for the basic core programs has been cut.

NAMI FOUND THAT FEWER STATES have been investing additional money in mental health since the mass shooting in Newtown, in which 20 first graders and six educators were slain. The emotionally troubled shooter also killed his mother and himself. Twenty-three states increased spending in 2015, compared to 36 states in 2013 and 29 in 2014.

Connecticut joins Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington as the only 11 that increased spending every year, from 2013 to 2015.

The NAMI report comes as Connecticut legislators return to the Capitol on Tuesday for a special legislative session dedicated to closing an approximately $350 million shortfall in this year’s $20 billion budget.

Earlier this fall, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy cut $102 million, including $16 million to human service-related programs, to help balance the budget. But those cuts prompted an outcry from nonprofit human service providers, who warned patients would suffer from a lack of services. Democratic legislative leaders said Monday that many of those cuts to the nonprofit agencies that provide mental health and other services will be replenished in the latest plan up for a vote.

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