Dr Charles Herrick, chairman of the Newtown Sandy Hook Community Foundation, responded to a recent letter sent to his panel by First Selectman Pat Llodra. Dr Herrick said he shared the first selectman's concerns about future unmet needs including mental health counseling and related support services to immediate victims and witnesses to the 12/14 carnage.
On August 7, Mrs Llodra wrote to the foundation expressing appreciation for the foundation members' work on behalf of the community and victims, but also stating that she believes the reimbursement sanctioned for families of the survivors by the distribution committee is inadequate.
"Twenty thousand dollars will be insufficient to address the wide range of mental health needs for these youngsters and their siblings and parents for years into the future," Mrs Llodra wrote. "Please be aware also that many of these families suffered significant loss of income and loss of opportunity during the months immediately after December 14. I know for certain that those gaps have not been filled for some of these families. I strongly urge the foundation to concentrate significant resources for these families for upcoming years."
The first selectman said she understands the foundation has affirmed all families are eligible for needs-based distributions in the future. "As with the families of the survivors, these parents and siblings of the deceased may well encounter continuing challenges in making their life stable and their livelihood predictable and sufficient," she wrote.
In calling for the foundation to establish a designated fund to underwrite the future, long-term needs of these families, Mrs Llodra said she was "conflicted by the idea that resources would be set aside for general community needs such as a memorial or general programming."
"Our community is quite resilient and is proving its capacity to integrate this horrible event into our history – making it meaningful and significant – but, at the same time, finding ways to not let that event handicap our capacity to manage and respond to the challenges of the future," Mrs Llodra wrote.
The first selectman also indicated that the Western Connecticut Health Network is funding a data collection and analysis study to determine what, if any, social/familial fractures have become more prevalent or persistent since the shooting.
"That study will help to inform our community responses going forward," Mrs Llodra continued. "In the meantime, we have accessed every conceivable source for grants to reimburse the community and related organizations for expenses borne in the aftermath of the shooting. And, we are requesting additional grants to help us program for a more comprehensive community-wide recovery and growth plan."
She noted that the potential for the community to receive support through grants while that possibility is not available to our individual families.
In his response, Dr Herrick noted that in crafting the foundation and its by-laws, a steering committee researched other communities impacted by such tragedies. As a result, he wrote, the foundation created "its bylaws with three critical lessons in mind: first, control the distribution process locally; second, infuse the process with public participation; third, and most importantly, retain significant moneys to address needs that will not become apparent for some time."
Dr Herrick said foundation volunteers shared Mrs Llodra's ongoing concerns for the needs of those most directly impacted.
"And we also know that the needs of other individuals, including the other children, teachers and staff in Sandy Hook Elementary School on that day, first responders, and other witnesses, will continue long after this tragic event."
He stated that foundation members harbor no illusion that future fundraising can be relied upon with the same level of initial expectations.
"We must therefore be judicious in how we spend the limited financial resources we currently have available to us," Dr Herrick concluded. "By reserving the funds as we have, we will be able to distribute the moneys in a manner that will address those other unmet needs, so that those in greater need may benefit most, thereby addressing the ongoing concerns you so rightfully have described."
The foundation also agreed with Mrs Llodra that the money should not be used in areas where alternative funding sources are available.