Delaware measures take steps toward improving mental health services

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    Delaware’s legislators passed two bills last week that aim to improve the mental health landscape in the state.

    State Sen. Bethany Hall Long said her constituents were deeply concerned about the loss of psychiatric care options for young adults after Christiana Hospital, the state’s largest health care center, switched to a new model of care and closed a day program for adolescents in 2015.

    So she and other officials decided to create a mental health task force to address those concerns.

    “And, really, we’re quite glad that we did because we have a lot of gaps from prenatal all the way to our elders,” she said. 

    Those gaps include a shortage of child psychiatrists in the state and no residential treatment center for adolescents with substance abuse problems.

    One bill will establish a mental health commission, which will provide monitoring and oversight. Long said the commission is meant to continue the work of the task force.

    “They would be able to come together and make recommendations and work collaboratively with the Department of Health and Social Services, give feedback to the General Assembly, give feedback to the Governor’s Office,” she said.

    Another bill will codify a suicide prevention coalition.

    In 2012, Delaware had an uptick in suicides among adolescents in the southern part of the state, which caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist state officials in an investigation.

    These bills are the first steps toward creating more a more holistic behavioral health care system in Delaware, Long said. A bill that tackled maternal depression also passed the Senate a week earlier.

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