Newtown’s post 12/14 recovery and resiliency efforts are about to accelerate with the hiring of a team of mental health experts and case managers, and the distribution of funds to underwrite outreach and support programs being coordinated through several separate town agencies.
First Selectman Pat Llodra wasted no time in recent weeks following the delivery of $7.1 million in federal Department of Justice grants, delivering allocations to Kevin’s Community Center, Newtown’s public health clinic, Newtown Prevention Council, Parent Connection, and Newtown Police Department.
Mrs Llodra said she has also set aside funds from part of the grant designated for school security and facility hardening, and has completed hiring a dedicated recovery team that is being headed by Melissa Glaser, MS/LPC. That team will soon begin its work and interacting with members of the community from offices being established in the former engineer’s house near the entrance of Fairfield Hills.
The Community Assistance Team members will also be meeting with residents and others in various locations around town, Mrs Llodra said, including at the homes of individuals who may be seeking support or counseling. The team also includes Project Manager Margot Robins and three case managers: Suzanne DeYoung, Eileen Rondeau, and Catherine Galda.
According to her online bio, Ms Glaser has served as director of behavioral health and related services for Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, and has maintained her own private therapy practice since 2010.
The budget for this piece of the recovery effort is $618,083.
The first selectman said funding directed through the local service agencies and police department will underwrite specific initiatives within those agencies developed as components of the overall effort funded by the grant.
For example, Newtown Youth & Family Services has received almost $2.5 million covering existing expenses and services rendered since 12/14, as well as programming and support initiatives for at least the next 18 months. Its allocation covers everything from rent for a satellite office, furnishings and supplies, to IT enhancements and more than $2 million in personnel and benefits costs.
Just over $500,000 allocated for the local police department is covering mandatory wellness visits, a needs assessment survey, support groups, as well as the cost for nine full-time school security officers, equipment and training. More than $1.2 million is set aside for school building security hardware and hardening, while the Prevention Council is receiving $33,520 for facilitators, resource materials, and to set up a mental health first aid training program.
The Parent Connection will use $16,475 for trauma training, meeting space, facilitators and materials, while KCC received $60,264 for added administrative personnel, medical and pharmaceutical supplies, and technical support.
KCC Founder Dr Z. Michael Taweh said his agency has been handling a steady increase in patients since the Sandy Hook tragedy. He said many of these new arrivals are either seeking assistance for stress and anxiety issues, or other issues likely resulting from post-traumatic stress such as substance abuse, weight gain, and other conditions.
Mrs Llodra said the assistance team is not only charged with its own direct response duties, but for oversight and management of components of the grant allocated to outside agencies.
“That means programs like those being implemented at the police department will have team oversight,” Mrs Llodra said. “They will be involved with administering and tracking both the funding and program implementation and outcomes.”
She said the case managers will likely have the hardest role, although two of the three case mangers have been working in town for 18 months under a separately funded program funded by grants through the American Pediatrics Association.
“We’re picking up the additional staff under the DOJ grant,” Mrs Llodra said. “These three case workers will be out feet on the street, handling outreach and support for all persons receiving services under any of the clinical programs we have or will have in place.”
She said the case workers will “serve as a bridge to assure all [recovery] systems are in place.”
The Community Assistance Team is also picking up all the work previously being done by the Connecticut Office of Victim Services.
“Now all the oversight and management will be local,” she said. “I believe it will make for an even more efficient, effective, and well-informed process.”