State promoting mental health services during pandemic

Mental Health

Connecticut officials are promoting the availability of mental health resources as state residents struggle with issues such as suicidal thoughts and substance abuse during the pandemic.

Gov. Ned Lamont participated in a roundtable Tuesday with mental health care providers and the commissioners from the state departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Children and Families.

Jennifer Croce, a mobile crisis supervisor for United Family Services, said her organization has seen an increase in children seeking to harm themselves or others during the pandemic.

“This is in part due to this isolation and loss of connection with their peers, which is so important for that age range," she said.

Lamont said he's concerned that mental health problems could increase this month as people feel isolated and COVID-19 cases spike around the holidays.

He said the state state recorded 18 more deaths and 40 more hospitalizations on Tuesday and called on state residents to support each other emotionally during the crisis by checking in with someone who might be struggling.

His administration is asking anyone experiencing mental health issues to seek help by calling the state's 2-1-1 resource line. Officials emphasized that they have both in-person and telehealth resources available, including mobile crisis teams who will respond to homes, schools and other locations free of charge.

“If you’re a teen, we can get you in contact with another teen. If you have a crisis, we’ll get you in contact with the right person," Lamont said. “This could be the ultimate present you give this holiday season, that gift of love to a lot of folks who are in need.”

In other coronavirus related news:

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STUDENT PHARMACISTS

Given the anticipated large demand for certified professionals to immunize residents with the COVID-19 vaccine, the Connecticut Pharmacists Association said Tuesday that hospitals and other facilities throughout the state plan to use advanced student pharmacists, in addition to the career pharmacists, to administer the vaccinations.

Lamont signed an executive order on Monday, authorizing Connecticut pharmacists to administer FDA-approved or -authorized COVID-19 vaccines to patients over the age of 10.

Curricula at both of Connecticut’s two schools of pharmacy, the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and the University of Saint Joseph School of Pharmacy, require all student pharmacists to have immunization certifications. Philip Hritcko, dean of UConn's school of pharmacy, said the school is working closely with the state Department of Public Health to train and certify pharmacist immunizers and other health care professionals to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are also enlisting as many of our student and faculty certified immunizers as possible,” he said in a written statement. “More immunizers means that public access to vaccines can happen quickly once essential health care workers and high-risk patients are protected.”

James Henkel, interim dean of Saint Joseph’s School of Pharmacy and Physician Assistant Studies, said his second and third-year student pharmacists are all certified immunizers and the first-year pharmacy students will be certified by mid-March.

“They are trained, prepared, and motivated to join the fight against COVID at venues throughout the state,” he said.

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CASINO TESTING

The Mohegan Tribe and Yale New Haven Health are opening a new community coronavirus testing site in a parking garage at the Mohegan Sun casino.

The tribe says the drive-thru site was selected to provide more community testing in the Uncasville region, but also to allow Mohegan Sun team and Tribal members access to fast, safe coronavirus testing. Tests will be done by appointment only.

There are more than 260 testing sites open across the state.

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Quinnipiac University's men's basketball team has become the latest program to temporarily shut down because of a positive coronavirus test.

The Bobcats have postponed a planned two-game series with Iona that was scheduled for this weekend.

The move comes a day after UConn suspended team activities in its men's program and postponed its planned Friday Big East opener against St. John's because of a COVID-19 case there.

Coach Dan Hurley said Tuesday it was a player who tested positive and he does not expect UConn to play Sunday at Georgetown.

“If our first day back is Sunday, I'm not putting our guys on the court for a game,” he said.

David Benedict, UConn's athletic director, said the school still hopes to open its women's season on Saturday against UMass-Lowell. Geno Auriemma's team returned to practice on Dec. 3 after a coronavirus-related shutdown, but not all staff members were able to participate until Tuesday, Benedict said.

“I heard someone say, ‘Man plans and God laughs,’” he said. “It's just hard to plan right now because of the fluid nature of the situation and really the uncontrollable nature of what we're dealing with."

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BY THE NUMBERS

Connecticut currently has 1,223 patients hospitalized with issues related to COVID-19. The state's confirmed coronavirus-related death toll stands at 5,242.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Connecticut has risen over the past two weeks from 5.48% on Nov. 23 to 6.53% on Monday.

State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Connecticut, the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.