Teen reaches out to save mental health facility

The Department of Children and Families has come up with a draft of a plan to recognize children with mental health problems earlier.

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– A young woman that was suicidal a year ago and who has turned her life around is reaching out to try to save the program that saved her.

She sent a ‘Report it’ e-mail to News 8 and we looked into it to see why a successful mental health program was being changed.

The young woman and her mom say they can’t understand why a program for kids with mental health issues that works is being changed.

Like many kids her age, 18-year-old Erica is looking forward to graduating from high school this week. She’s graduating with honors and headed to college in the fall but it almost didn’t happen.

“A little over a year ago, I attempted suicide. I ended up in the ‘Institute for Living Adolescent Unit’ and from there, I came to I.C.P., which is the best program that’s helped me so much,” said Erica.

‘I.C.P.,’ is the ‘Intensive Community Program’ at the highly regarded ‘Village for Families and Children’ campus in Hartford.

Teenagers like Erica with mental health issues were coming there and staying for four months of intensive counseling.

“What really helped me was having the twenty-four hour staffing that I needed. If I needed to talk to someone…I mean a year ago, I wasn’t able to get myself out of bed, get dressed, eat,” said Erica.

“The residential is key, it really helps stabilize kids when they first come here, it gives them that grounding…that support,” said Donna Jolly, Village for Families and Children.

Erica who was just discharged from the program this month and who will continue to get help, sent News 8 a ‘Report It’ e-mail when she heard that funding for the residential part of the program had been cut.

She says that’s what made the difference for her.

“The program will remain but the residential component will be no longer and because of that we will be laying off about twenty to thirty staff,” said Jolly.

In a statement, the Department of Children and Families Commissioner says; “Rather than offering residential group care at the beginning of service, the new program will focus on intensive, in-home, ‘wrap-around’ services to provide all the help the child and family needs so that the child can continue to live with family.”

“I’m happy, I’m graduating with my class, I went to the prom, I did all my senior pranks with my friends, I’m driving, I couldn’t be any happier,” said Erica.

But both Erica and her Mom say that would not have worked in her case.

That the four months away from home and all the stresses plus the continual access to counseling is what made the difference.

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