Testimony on HB 5035: An Act Adjusting the State Budget for the Biennium

 Ending June 30, 2019

Appropriations Committee

February 16, 2018

Submitted By: Stephen Karp, LMSW


The National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter, representing over 2600 members, opposes the Governor’s proposed budget reduction of 5% in the Department of Public Health’s budget for school based health clinics (SBHC). SBHC’s are a proven effective service system that provide physical, mental and in some clinics dental care to children who would otherwise go without health care services. Programs that are working as intended and include preventative measures that save the state dollars should not face reductions in appropriations.


According to the school based health alliance 90% of individuals who experience a substance use disorder as an adult begin using in their teens. SBHCs are an effective tool for risk assessment and diagnosis of teen and young adult substance abuse. SBHCs have adopted the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) model to more effectively identify the warning signs of addiction and provide affordable quality treatment to CT youth. Actively screening and intervening with youth will lead to better outcomes academically and overall health and well-being.


For many students the SBHC is the only health and mental health service available to them. According to the National Mental Health Association, less than 1 in 5 of the 12.5 million children in need of mental health services actually receive them. Many of these children, if lacking school based services, will not achieve academic success due to social, emotional and behavioral problems affecting school performance.  Comprehensive SBHC’s offer mental health and substance abuse treatment, address acute conditions, provide preventive medical exams, treat injuries, offer oral health care, provide follow-up on chronic conditions and offer health education. Other SBHCs are mental health focused, working with children to cope with the stresses and behavioral issues that impede their ability to learn within the classroom setting. These are critical services that promote and support the well-being of the student, their families, educators, and the community.


Today there are more than 96 SBHCs in 26 communities, providing services to over 44,000 students annually, with approximately 50% of these visits for mental health. A loss of 5% in funding will inhibit the work of the SBHCs that are currently operating and an additional planned SBHC will not be able to open. In turn this will put pressure on other community based mental health services that are already stretched beyond capacity for children’s mental health. We strongly urge that at minimum current funding levels be maintained.


We also urge legislators to restore the Governor’s proposed elimination of over $388,000 to Community Health Centers. CHCs primarily serve low income households, providing affordable, quality, and comprehensive health care. Reductions in state funding, especially at a time when federal funding has been in doubt, will lead to poorer health care outcomes, and with such will be HIGHER costs to the state in Medicaid payments for acute care. The invaluable services provided by CHCs must be recognized and funded. Those with the least ability to afford health care services should not be the ones who are most targeted for reduced health care funding.


NASW/CT also is opposed to the Governor’s reductions in funding for community mental health services through the DMHAS budget. Over the past few years community mental health funding has been reduced to a point where further cuts will do irreparable harm. Eliminating $3 million dollars for grants to substance abuse and mental health services is counterproductive. Likewise the reduction of almost $2 million to home and community based services, housing supports and discharge services will mean the dismantling of critically important services at a time when there is a tremendous need for mental health services. We also oppose the cut of over $577,000 to the CT Mental Health Center that serves the greater New Haven area.


Social workers are in the trenches everyday working to assist individuals and families facing mental health needs. As it is, the availability of appropriate services is often difficult to find. Further reductions in DMHAS funding will only exasperate an already overly stretched service delivery system. We urge that DMHAS funding be restored.


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