Maria Lopez photo

Selenia Velez remembers the near-daily phone calls from the pre-school, alerting her that her 2-year-old son had acted out aggressively and needed to be picked up immediately.

The calls went on for months, as Velez, 27, of Hartford, and her husband bounced between the pre-school and their son’s pediatrician, who recommended that they take him to a psychiatrist for an evaluation. But the psychiatrist was booked and held them at bay, as Velez watched her son’s behavior deteriorate.

“We just felt hopeless,” the mother of four recalls of her oldest son, now 7. “It was one of the most heartbreaking things you can go through as a mother. I was scared of him – I just didn’t know what was going on – and no one had answers.”

The situation is not unusual in Connecticut, where pediatricians too busy to do their own mental health evaluations refer children to child psychologists, who are in short supply. Gaps in the mental health screening and treatment of youths have become a focus of policy makers since 20-year-old Adam Lanza opened fire in December at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and six adults.

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