Gov. Lamont announces new 'Kids Cabinet' to reach at-risk youth faster

The governor made the announcement at Project Joy, a new space where struggling kids can have fun – but also heal.

John Craven

Sep 12, 2023, 9:39 PM

Updated 222 days ago

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Connecticut saw a surge of teenage crime following COVID lockdowns – especially stolen cars. To reach at-risk children faster, Gov. Ned Lamont announced a new “Kids Cabinet” on Tuesday.
Several state agencies will now coordinate their efforts on multiple fronts, reporting directly to Lamont.
“Be it mental health, be it housing, be it food support,” said Lamont.
“DOESN’T LOOK LIKE THERAPY”
The governor made the announcement at Project Joy, a new space in Waterbury where struggling kids can have fun – but also heal.
“The whole idea of play is to normalize talking about feelings and things that are tough,” said clinical director Charlaine St. Charles. “We're being proactive; we're not being reactive. We're trying to prevent those things from happening.”
Shannon Ozkan, of Griswold, knows the struggle first-hand. Her child spent a week-and-a-half in a psychiatric ward but is now back on track.
“I had to make that hard decision to call the police from my driveway,” said Ozkan. “Families don't know sometimes that there's resources available, so I like to share that at every opportunity.”
REACHING KIDS WHERE THEY ARE
Many schools now provide mental health counseling on-site. Pediatricians are offering it too, and Connecticut Children’s Hospital will soon open the state’s first pediatric psychology unit.
Thanks to new state and federal funding, mobile mental health crisis teams are now available 24 hours a day. Kids can also go to four Urgent Crisis Centers across the state: · Wellmore Behavioral Health (Waterbury) · Yale New Haven Hospital (New Haven) · The Village for Families and Children (Hartford) · The Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut (New London)
Finding enough social workers is a major challenge, so the state is waiving some testing requirements and recognizing out-of-state licenses.
“CAN’T COMPARE THE COST”
St. Charles admits that none of this is cheap. But the alternative – the cycle of juvenile crime, or even teen suicide – is much worse.
“If you are to compare the cost of this versus the cost of, you know, housing someone who is involved in either juvenile justice or as an adult, you can't compare the cost,” she said.


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