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After an extended transition and addition of two additional grant-funded workers, the Newtown Center for Support and Wellness (NCSW) is now fully staffed and ready to deliver expanded services beyond the many individuals who believe they are suffering direct or latent post-traumatic effects of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Under the leadership of Director Jennifer Crane, MS, MFT, the four-member NCSW team is currently supporting hundreds of resident referrals, including one client who is just 4 years old, and another who is 84.
“The center aims to be the single point of entry for wellness resources providing hands-on services for Newtown residents,” Ms Crane told The Newtown Bee. “I believe that life is already difficult enough; if we can connect clients with the necessary resources, then it is my hope that no one feels alone.”
Funded by the town, Praxiar, Newtown Sandy Hook Community Foundation, and federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants, the center also employs community care navigator Corinne Ofgang, MS, CMHC; marriage and family therapist Valerie Le Cann Jones, LMFT; and victim care navigator Tricia Pinto, an attorney whose son, Jack, was killed on 12/14.
Ms Crane explained that while the center is occupying the same building at the main entrance of Fairfield Hills formerly occupied by the Recovery & Resiliency Team (RRT), her staff is continuing the work of the RRT, and expanding referral services to any community member seeking any type of mental or wellness resources for issues including anxiety, addiction, hoarding, grief, and other concerns.
Residents interested in touring the facility and meeting the staff are invited to an open house Wednesday, November 9, from 9 am to 6 pm.
“Since we opened the center, we’ve received more than 100 new referrals, and continue to serve families, individuals, professionals, children, adults, and seniors,” Ms Crane said. Her staff has also provided more than 275 hours of community outreach, consulting with local providers, schools, wellness services, clergy, responders, and those most immediately impacted by the December 2012 tragedy.
That key position was recently filled my Ms Pinto, who is charged with supporting, and serving as a facilitator to, the families whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook School. Ms Pinto has a Juris Doctor from Quinnipiac University School of Law and holds a Bachelor of Science from Pace University.
According to the center’s website, while Ms Pinto’s position at the Center for Wellness and Support is not in a legal capacity, “her legal training and firsthand experience as a bereaved mother living with traumatic loss offers the combination of skill and sensitivity when providing support to the families of loss.” She currently serves as a member on the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission, and is also a co-creator of the family-based website mysandyhookfamily.org.
Ms Pinto and her family continue to call Sandy Hook home.
Joining her most recently is Ms Le Cann Jones, who has a Masters of Arts degree in marriage and family therapy from Fairfield University and a Bachelor’s of Science in psychology from Union College. Besides being a member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the International Association of Trauma Professionals, Ms Le Cann Jones has completed the coursework for her School Certification and has completed both Part I and Part II of EMDR Training.
She has extensive experience in substance abuse, behavioral health, and domestic violence, and has experienced and witnessed the devastating results of trauma in her family, and as a resident of Sandy Hook. She views trauma though a systemic lens and understands the importance of working with the entire family when focusing on recovery in order to facilitate post trauma growth.
Prior to her career in mental health, Ms Le Cann Jones had a career in real estate law as a title closer, and retail operations with Cartier, Inc.
Ms Ofgang, who along with Ms Crane, was introduced in a previous Newtown Bee feature, hails from the Danbury area. She received a Master of Science degree in clinical mental health counseling at Western Connecticut State University, as well as her undergraduate degree in the social sciences, with a concentration in conflict resolution.
Prior to joining the center, she worked as a clinician at a local substance abuse and behavioral health agency, where she was responsible for facilitating psychoeducational and therapeutic support groups, as well as comprehensive assessments and individual counseling for clients with co-occurring conditions.
Ms Ofgang is known for a warm, relaxed, and comfortable approach to counseling, and is a professional member of the American Counseling Association and the Connecticut Counseling Association. She believes in treating all clients with unconditional positive regard, and works to understand their struggles through a trauma-informed lens, according to her biography.
Ms Crane holds a Master of Science degree in marriage/family and mental health counseling from Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., and a Bachelors of Arts degree in psychology and communications from Adrian College in Adrian, Mich.
Prior to heading up the center, she was the director of residential life at Quinnipiac University where her primary responsibilities included oversight of 15 full-time staff, 108 paraprofessionals, a 5,000-bed residential network, budget, operations, training, serving on the university behavioral intervention team, and responding to a wide array of emergencies.
Prior to her work at Quinnipiac, Ms Crane worked in housing and residential life at UConn in Storrs, responding to student mental health emergencies; as an area coordinator at Barry University; and in Miami, counseling families in court-mandated programs, helping families to navigate reunification processes, and assisting after significant family crises.
Specializing in families and couples, Ms Crane has resided in Connecticut for 16 years and currently lives in Northford. Having experienced it herself, she understands the complexities of balancing a family, work, life, and the constant pull from all of these responsibilities.
She is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, is trained in domestic violence, in M-trem (Men’s trauma and recovery model), and sexual assault with the Bridgeport Center for Family Justice.
The Newtown Center for Support and Wellness is at 28 Trades Lane, and welcomes walk-ins during regular office hours, 8:30 am to 4:30, Monday through Friday. Residents with questions are invited to call the center at 203-270-4612, or to e-mail Ms Crane at email@example.com.
The Center for Support and Wellness also maintains a Facebook page, and its website can be accessed by visiting newtowncsw.org