The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), in its ranking of states in 2009, placed Connecticut as among the top six states in the nation, along with Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oklahoma. However, it described Connecticut as “a state of paradoxes” in mental health care and treatment, stressing that “Connecticut’s citizens deserve far better.” The state ranked 31st in the prevalence of mental illness, with 108,730 individuals, according to the organization, which pointed out that even in states with solid grades, “there is no doubt that many of their residents living with serious mental illnesses are not receiving the services and supports they need.”
Connecticut’s overall grade was “B,” according to the report, “Grading the States 2009.” The Alliance graded states in four categories:
- Health Promotion and Measurement,
- Financing & Core Treatment/Recovery Services,
- Consumer & Family Empowerment, and
- Community Integration and Social Inclusion.
Connecticut received a “C” in Community Integration and Social Inclusion, an “A” in Consumer and Family Empowerment – the only state in the nation to receive the top grade – and a “B” in the other two categories.
Three “urgent needs” were noted for Connecticut: Increase community-based services, housing as an alternative to more restrictive placements, and ending nursing home warehousing.
In the days after the mass killings of 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, questions have been raised about the role of mental health services as part of a state and national response to the tragedy.
Overall, NAMI gave the United States a grade of “D.” In the 2009 report, NAMI reviewed progress made since the organization’s previous state-by-state report in 2006, and found state mental health agencies “making valiant efforts to improve systems and promote recovery despite rising demand for services, serious workforce shortages, and inadequate resources. Many states are adopting better policies and plans, promoting evidence-based practices, and encouraging more peer-run and peer-delivered services.”
However, NAMI reported that “these improvements are neither deep nor widespread enough to improve the national average. The grades for almost half the states (23) remain unchanged since 2006, and 12 states have fallen behind.”
Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year, according to data cited by NAMI, which is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for Americans affected by mental illness.
The 2009 report concluded that “Without a significant commitment from our nation’s leaders—in Washington, among governors, and in state legislatures—state mental health agencies will continue to struggle to provide even minimally adequate services to people living with serious mental illnesses.”
Specifically, the report noted that as a nation, “We have too few psychiatric beds, treatment services, and community-based supports for those who need them; people with mental illnesses are neglected until they reach the point of crisis, and are then dumped onto other systems. Across the nation, people with mental illnesses are unnecessarily incarcerated, homeless, out of work, and unable to access needed medicines. On top of it all, we have an extremely limited capacity to monitor and measure our own efforts—the very foundation of effective reform.”