When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy began rolling out parts of his budget package Friday, he started by proposing an additional $7.2 million in mental health services.
“While we in Connecticut have always been proud of our mental health system, the tragedy of Sandy Hook has caused us to identify the need to do better,” Malloy said at a press conference at the Capitol Region Mental Health Center in Hartford.
The governor’s budget will include $250,000 for an anti-stigma media campaign, $2.2 million in new funding for 110 Rental Assistance Program vouchers, $5 million to increase mental health services to young adults and other difficult to reach populations, and crisis intervention training for police officers.
It’s unclear exactly how much the training for police officers will cost, but Malloy’s proposal would make it mandatory for all police officers to receive the training at some point over the next three years.
Cromwell Police Chief Anthony Salvatore, who is chairman of the Police Officers Standards and Training Council, said they don’t know how much it will cost, but what they expect to do is provide the training over a period of time for veteran officers.
“We are incorporating this training into our in-service training classes,” Salvatore said.
State Police Sgt. Matthew Garcia said changes over the past several decades to mental health institutions “have put individuals in need back into the community.”
“Although a positive step for many, there are those with severe mental illness and psychiatric issues that will at some point have contact with law enforcement. It is imperative that officers across the board receive the training that will allow them to better assess and handle situations,” Garcia said. “It also affords the best chance for a peaceful outcome.”
Asked if $7.2 million was enough of a response to mental health issues, Malloy said, “I don’t know whether it’s enough. If it isn’t we’ll make more available.”
Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Patricia Rehmer said the legislation passed last April included additional support for those with mental health issues.
While the debate over the legislation passed last April focused on firearm restrictions, there were also provisions that increased spending on mental health services and programs by about $5.5 million.
The goal of Friday’s proposal is to put together services so people with mental illness can recover and live fulfilling lives, Malloy said.
Malloy will unveil his entire budget on Feb. 5.