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Hospital on Central Connecticut Takes Aim at Mental Health Awareness

The hospital, part of the new Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network, will host a forum as a starting point to “raise awareness and break down barriers” related to mental health.

Credit: Hospital of Central Connecticut website.
Credit: Hospital of Central Connecticut website.
The following was derived from a press release from the Hospital of Central Connecticut and Hartford HealthCare.

As part of an ongoing effort to help improve public understanding of mental health issues in Connecticut, the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network and The Department of Psychiatry at The Hospital of Central Connecticut are sponsoring a free public event on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain.

The event, titled “Raising Awareness, Breaking Down Barriers,” will feature speakers who are experts in behavioral health as well as an opportunity for questions and answers from the audience.

Guest speakers include Michael Balkunas, M.D., Chief of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Hospital of Central Connecticut; and Maria Dacosta, M.D. and Ladan Hamdheydari, M.D.; staff psychiatrists at The Hospital of Central Connecticut and specialists with the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network. The event is part of the ongoing National Dialogue on Mental Health Series that is being held at various locations throughout the state.

The event focuses on the stigmas and fears that are often associated with behavioral health issues, and how they can be overcome in order to ensure that patients receive proper care and treatment.

The National Dialogue on Mental Health Series was conceived in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook that occurred in December of 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. In early 2013, behavioral health leaders from around the nation, and from the Hartford HealthCare network, convened to begin a discussion with United States Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. to outline a plan that would focus attention, as a nation, on mental health, thereby creating opportunities to de-stigmatize mental illness through education, discussion, and improvements in systems of care.

The plan’s ultimate goal is to help people recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness, and be willing to seek help and access care. That includes resources for mental health first-aid, a national program that helps people to recognize and respond to signs of mental health issues in others. There is also a significant focus on the importance of early intervention.

Out of this national conversation and plan was born Hartford HealthCare’s commitment through its Behavioral Health Network, to community discussions (i.e., the National Dialogue on Mental Health Series) throughout its System; to make Mental Health First Aid widely available; and to raise three million dollars over the next three years for mental health education, augmentation of clinical programs, and research on critical mental health issues.

The Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network is comprised of the Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, Natchaug Hospital, Rushford and the behavioral health departments of The Hospital of Central Connecticut, MidState Medical Center, and The William W. Backus Hospital.

For more than a century, the members of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network have been connecting people with behavioral health services including inpatient and outpatient services -- and everything in between -- in a variety of settings for children, adolescents and adults with mental health or substance abuse issues.

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