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Conn. Mental Health Expert Fears Services Will Be Cut As Lawmakers Work To Close Budget Deficit

Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford (file / credit: Connecticut General Assembly and the League of Women Voters of Connecticut Education Fund, Inc.)

Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford (file/credit: Connecticut General Assembly and the League of Women Voters of Connecticut Education Fund, Inc.)

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HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) – As lawmakers in Connecticut ready for Wednesday’s special legislative session to help close a $242 million budget shortfall, some who work in mental health care fear essential services may be on the chopping block.

WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reports

Clinic psychologist Dr. Philip Guzman, the director of the Bridgeport area Child Guidance Center, said demand for services continues to rise and he urged lawmakers to spare services especially critical to the welfare of mentally challenged children.

“I would ask legislators to think in the early intervention and not cut the programs, the services that are for children because that’s where we really can make the most impact,” Guzman told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.

The Malloy administration estimates the budget gap to be $365 million, while others have pegged the shortfall at $415 million. Gov. Dannel Malloy has already ordered $170 million in cuts by executive order.

Those cuts will affect many services and programs, including food stamps, Schneidau reported last month.

The governor’s office has previously ruled out tax hikes as a way to raise revenue. Guzman worried some of the cuts may come from programs that offer help to those with mental health and developmental problems.

“We are very fortunate to have a good system here but it’s a very fragile system and right now, we’re in that state of anything can start to make this system crumble,” Guzman told Schneidau.

Officials said much of the deficit in this year’s $20 billion budget is due to higher-than-expected Medicaid costs.

Lawmakers have agreed they will not speak publicly about any possible cuts prior to Wednesday’s special legislative session.

The fiscal year 2014 budget shortfall is forecast to top $1 billion, officials said.

Concerns about cuts to mental health services have been raised in the wake of last week’s elementary school massacre.

No motive has been established for the rampage that left 20 children and seven adults dead before gunman Adam Lanza, 20, committed suicide.

Family friends of the Lanzas said Nancy Lanza told them her son had Asperger’s syndrome, but it remains unclear if Adam was formally diagnosed.

Nancy Lanza was her son’s first victim on Friday morning, found shot to death in her bed.

Other former schoolmates of Adam Lanza described him as awkward and shy.

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