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Town Poised To Secure DOJ Grants For Long-Term Recovery Efforts

Newtown officials and a GE representative working with the first selectman’s office are about a week away from filing for approximately $6 million in grants from the US Department of Justice that the town intends to use to fund several new, nongovernment professionals who will help deliver sustained and targeted mental health and recovery support in the community.

The grant applicant is the Connecticut Office of Victim Services, a division of the state Judicial Department, which will pass through funding to the town and other agencies or organizations also participating in the grant.

In anticipation of receiving the grant, First Selectman Pat Llodra said she is about to send out invitations to individuals, organizations, and agencies from which a seven-member oversight board for the grant implementation would be created.

“The board of directors will include persons with diverse backgrounds, but who have the experience to influence policies the board is expected to create as part of the administration of the DOJ grant,” Mrs Llodra told The Bee January 29.

She will draw the seven directors from a pool that includes the first selectman, school superintendent, health district director, and a representative from the town’s interfaith clergy association, the Western Connecticut Health Network, local civic organizations, and someone representing the nearly two dozen charities, foundations, and support causes that sprung up locally post-12/14.

Mrs Llodra said she, other officials, and GE liaison Elizabeth Rallo have been working with DOJ representatives since shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy, and the town has already received funds from the crisis response aspect of the federal grant program. This much larger, secondary distribution is from what Mrs Llodra has been referring to as the “consequence grant.”

“Elizabeth has working to illustrate how we would fund a robust infrastructure, including policies and programs that will deliver a comprehensive range of mental health services for a period of 18 months,” Mrs Llodra said, referring to Ms Rallo. She added that the town might be eligible for additional federal funding to maintain support and programming beyond that period.

Integrating Separate Efforts

The first selectman said there are currently about 20 different groups funding or handling resident support programs, and she does not want to see those efforts become “silos.” Instead she hopes these separate efforts will integrate to maximize service delivery to the maximum number of Newtown residents requiring assistance.

“A lot of these groups are relying on themselves to keep raising funds for these services, but that is unsustainable when you consider some of these services may be required for 15 years or more,” she said, referring to services that might be required by the youngest victims — young surviving Sandy Hook students and siblings of immediate victims.

“We envision this board bringing the various community partners together, and creating the structure under which they can make that happen,” Mrs Llodra said. “We’re looking to create an environment of collaboration.”

She said the various agencies that might find themselves struggling on their own to sustain programming or support that is part of their mission may need a safety net “so the people they are serving will be able to transition seamlessly.”

“Our ultimate goal is no gaps, and we must identify all segments of the community that need services,” Mrs Llodra said. “The DOJ agreed to define our entire community as victims of this crime, not any isolated smaller populations. So that allows Newtown to identify needs to be served through the grant across the entire community.”

Mrs Llodra believes those involved with administering the grant will learn a lot during the 18 months of anticipated coverage. And she thinks the knowledge gained can be applied to requests for new grants to underwrite programs that are still needed beyond that year-and-a-half window.

“I don’t think the issues will go away after 18 months,” she said. “We actually expect the demand for services to increase during that time, so we want to plan for a sustainable model that will extend for 15 years.”

The first selectman said that the community has been hearing about “pieces” of several grant initiatives for several months, and she wants to be sure residents understand that those and other pieces are part of a greater plan.

Operational By April

Mrs Llodra said she would like to see the support infrastructure up and running by mid-April. The team that will be funded by the grant will set up operations in the former borough offices in Town Hall South, appropriately adjacent to the town’s Social Services department.

“This proximity will enhance the partnership between the two offices, and provide quick access to a social worker,” Mrs Llodra said, adding that no matter how grant funding plays out in the future, she sees the social worker position as one she would identify to eventually add as a permanent town staffer — provided there is ongoing justification and support to fund that position.

As previously reported in The Bee, the Newtown Prevention Council has been identified as the point group overseeing the “Recovery and Resiliency Plan.”

“We’ve been doing things that are part of that plan already,” Mrs Llodra said. Now, with Ms Rallo’s support, the town is formalizing a response infrastructure using guidance from a report produced by Yale psychiatrist and Professor Jill Barron, MD, MHS, who spent six months working in Newtown researching and formulating an action plan after the mass shooting.

Mrs Llodra said although a separate SERV grant was received by the school district, residents will see eventual integration of programming being underwritten by that and the DOJ consequence grant.

Ms Rallo said one of the common concerns being expressed by community members about potential response and support efforts is a lack of communication. So she will se to it that the newly formed organization under the DOJ grant utilizes many platforms and media to connect residents to information they need.

“It will incorporate everything from paper flyers, posters and a community ‘Look Book’ to social networking, e-mails and web-based media,” Ms Rallo said.

The first task once the board is identified and seated will be to hire a leader, or to consider whether the town should consider an existing agency to handle the work. Mrs Llodra said she is leaning toward supporting a localized consortium of professionals with local oversight, because the extra overhead cost to pay an administrating agency could be better spent on direct service delivery to residents.

Mrs Llodra wanted to reassure residents and taxpayers that except for the possible eventuality of hiring a town social worker, all proposed professionals working for the board would be employees of the grant, and not the town.

Federal Grant Would Fund Five Support Positions

The Town of Newtown is currently advertising to fill four positions that would be funded by the “consequence grant” being applied for through the US Department of Justice. The deadline for accepting applications is February 10, and First Selectman Pat Llodra hopes to have the mental health professionals qualified and hired by mid-April.

These positions are being funded by the grant for a period of 18 months. These will be contracted positions with their duties and compensation as follows:

Community Outreach Liaison — The primary responsibilities of the community outreach liaison include long-term strategic planning, assessment, facilitation, coordination, training, vetting and advocacy at a high level in the community. The COL will serve as the pivotal position in the community for residents, providers, funders, and municipal and community leaders to learn about available resources. This role will be the central position in Newtown responsible for monitoring and supporting the response efforts.

Salary Range: $100,000–$120,000

Project Manager — The project manager will be part of a team charged with the responsibility to implement the recovery and resiliency plan for the Town of Newtown. The primary responsibilities of the project manager include executing a long-term strategy plan, facilitating the collaboration among funding sources and providers, collecting and reporting of success metrics, executing the communication plan, and assisting as needed in grant reconciliation.

Salary Range: $60,000–$70,000

Clinical Recovery Coordinator/Licensed Clinical Social Worker — The clinical recovery coordinator will be part of a team charged with the responsibility to implement the recovery and resiliency plan for the town of Newtown and will serve as the clinical/mental health expert/spokesperson for the town. The primary responsibilities of this position are to provide clinical oversight of the team of community case managers and clinical support as needed to individual cases; coordinate the efforts of mental health providers in order to provide a single point of contact for those in the community seeking assistance.

Salary Range: $65,000–$75, 000

Case Managers (two positions) — The case managers will be part of a team charged with the responsibility to implement the recovery and resiliency plan for the Town of Newtown. The case managers will be responsible for direct work with individuals and families, linking and following up on needed services. Case managers will provide comprehensive outreach services for the Newtown population.

Salary Range: $40,000–$50,000

This report was updated February 20 to clarify the actual applicant is the state Office of Victim Services.

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