Newtown Receives $7 Million Federal Grant For School Safety, Counseling Services

US Representative Elizabeth Esty and US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy announced on June 17 a $7.1 million grant from the US Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime to support victims, family members, first responders, and community members in Newtown in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The grant will be used to support victim services with a portion reserved for school safety efforts. The funding will support new mental health services, specifically longer-term counseling for families, law enforcement, and first responders. It will also help reimburse ongoing services for those affected by 12/14.

“This grant will provide much-needed relief and support for Newtown to help this brave community heal,” said Rep Esty. “The community of Newtown has faced unimaginable tragedy with incredible strength and resiliency. Survivors, families, law enforcement, and first responders deserve sustained counseling services and enhanced school safety resources, and I’m grateful to the Department of Justice for responding with continued support.”

She said the leadership shown by First Selectman Pat Llodra, town officials, the families, and community activists inspire her, her colleagues, and the nation.

“I will continue to do all I can every day to support their efforts and to ensure that the community of Newtown has the resources it needs to fully recover and heal,” she added.

“I remain in awe of the entire Newtown community for its strength, compassion, and resiliency in the face of unspeakable tragedy,” said Sen Blumenthal. “For those who lost loved ones, and for the students, educators, and first responders who witnessed the unimaginable horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School, recovery may require continued services.

“I will continue to advocate for the Newtown community to aid its full recovery. I will also continue to work side by side with the advocates and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School who have turned their grief into a determined effort to change our nation’s deeply flawed gun laws to help ensure that no more families and communities have to endure the pain Newtown has experienced,” he added.

“It’s our responsibility to do everything we can to help the Newtown community rebuild and recover,” said Sen Murphy. “Victims, witnesses, and first responders in Newtown need comprehensive mental health and counseling services to help them cope with this tragedy, as well as improved school security to prevent future tragedies."

He noted that the funding will provide robust additional support for these critical services.

“I thank the Department of Justice for answering our call for further assistance. But while this grant will go a long way to help the people of Newtown, they will continue to need our support in the coming months and years,” Sen Murphy said. “Newtown will be recovering for a long time, and I will work tirelessly to support them every step of the way.”


Plugging In Funding

After receiving confirmation of the award Tuesday morning, Mrs Llodra said the community is very appreciative of the ongoing support provided through the Department of Justice.

“These funds provided through the Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program [AEAP]  for Crime Victims will be well used as our families, school children and teachers, police, and residents continue on the journey of recovery and resiliency,” Mrs Llodra said. “The award will help fund organizations providing mental health services for our residents, teachers, school children, and first responders. And, resources are provided for hardening our school facilities, and for enhancing school security.”

Candice Bohr, the executive director of Newtown Youth & Family Services (NYFS), said her agency would utilize part of the grant award to also hire additional counselors.

“We recognize this is a step in the long process of recovery. Since the tragedy, NYFS has increased its staffing capacity and has witnessed the client population quadruple in the last 18 months,” she said. “We anticipate seeing a continued need in services and funding related to mental health, and we are committed to providing the continued support the town, the school district, and the families of the community need.”

Last year, the Newtown community received a $1.5 million grant from the Office for Victims of Crime. Additionally, the Newtown Public School District received $3.2 million grant through the US Department of Education’s School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program in 2013 and 2014.

Mrs Llodra told The Newtown Bee during the application process earlier this year that upon confirmation of the funding, the town intends to retain 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.

Among other participating applicants are:

*St Rose of Lima, to underwrite additional building hardening measures;

*The Resiliency Center of Newtown, for ongoing therapy and to launch several nontraditional programs supporting community recovery;

*The United Way of Western Connecticut, to cover back office administration it has been providing on several fronts since 12/14; and

*Wellmore, a key regional mental health agency that responded on 12/14 to identify and support immediate victims’ families and Sandy Hook staff. Wellmore hopes to establish a satellite office in Newtown

Plans are to create a seven-member oversight board for the grant implementation.

“The board of directors will [utilize] 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 said in late January.

The first selectman, Superintendent of Schools Dr Joseph Erardi, Health District Director Donna Culbert, and representatives from the town’s interfaith clergy association, Western Connecticut Health Network, local civic organizations, and representative from the nearly two dozen charities, foundations and support causes that sprung up locally post-12/14 will participate on the panel.

“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.”


Five Support Positions

The Town of Newtown plans to fill four positions funded by the recently awarded “consequence grant” from the US Department of Justice.

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.

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.

Clinical Recovery Coordinator/Licensed Clinical Social Worker — This person 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, and coordinate the efforts of mental health providers in order to provide a single point of contact for those in the community seeking assistance.

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.


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