WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and co-author of the bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act signed into law in 2016, released a statement applauding Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for awarding an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Program Grant to the Wheeler Clinic in Plainville. The Wheeler Clinic is set to receive $500,000 per year for up to five years for the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health program, which was created in Murphy’s Mental Health Reform Act. This program is intended to support early intervention for infants and young children who are at risk of developing or are showing signs of mental illness.

“This is exactly why I worked so hard to write the Mental Health Reform Act. People in Connecticut know how important childhood mental health treatment is, and grants like this will go a long way in treating and developing children with mental illness. Think of how many adult lives could have been improved or even saved if only they had received the counseling and treatment they needed at a young age,” said Murphy.

“This initiative provides a tremendous opportunity to reach and treat infants and children with mental health issues, particularly challenges related to exposure to parental substance misuse,” said Susan Walkama, LCSW, president and chief executive officer of Wheeler Clinic. “We know that we can make a measurable difference in the Hartford community by helping children and families, and by strengthening the capacity of educators, early childhood and behavioral health professionals who work with youth and their parents in the home, school and community.”

The Wheeler program will use the new funding to improve development and mental health outcomes for children to age 12 diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and other developmental challenges through evidence-based, trauma-forced home visiting services; increase parent knowledge of child development, health literacy and access to community resources through outreach, developmental screenings, and in-home development support; and increase number of providers with the skills and knowledge to support children and family.

As a member of the U.S. Appropriations and HELP Committees, Murphy worked to fund the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Program grant and other key programs from the Mental Health Reform Act last year. Murphy then worked to continue this new funding in the recently passed Department of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services spending bill for 2019.