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Newtown’s Center for Support and Wellness (CSW) may seem like an oasis of calm at the main entrance of Fairfield Hills as crews complete streetscape improvements just outside the center’s weathered brick walls. But the agency’s staff and Director Jennifer Crane MS, MFT, have been working industriously on several projects along with continuing their work assisting both immediate survivors and community members post 12/14.
Having just completed an update of its Newtown Resource Guide, CSW staff and partners are also recruiting individuals to help launch a peer-to-peer bipolar and depression support system.
The agency is also planning a “men only” support group, scheduling a local/regional mental and health care provider networking event, a separate provider open house, analyzing and disseminating data from a recent providers’ survey, continuing to schedule agency outreach meetings, and responding to a significant uptick in requests for services as local families and students brace for the opening of a new school year.
Ms Crane said while a limited number of resource guide print copies are available, she is asking those who access them in the community to be sure they are viewing the latest update, since a number of resources in the initial printing of the guide in 2014 have changed, closed, moved, or added new information.
“Residents would be better served by accessing the updated guide online, so they could immediately link to any resources providing internet addresses or e-mail information for their services,” she said. “The online guide also identifies specific CSW staff that visitors may wish to contact directly.”
The guide can be found at newtowncsw.org, click 12/14 Resource Guide.
She is also asking all local/regional nonprofits and providers in the guide to check their listing to be sure all information is correct and up-to-date. If not, contact CSW so the online directory can be modified with any corrections or additions.
Ms Crane said CSW is currently seeing individuals who are willing to help initiate a peer-led Depression & Bipolar Support system as the agency works toward establishing a Newtown chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
“Our hope is to share in the Alliance’s mission to provide hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders,” Ms Crane told The Newtown Bee earlier this week. “If any community member or a loved one is looking for help we invite them to attend the first meeting, which is happening on September 14 at 8 pm.”
To maintain privacy, the location of the meetings are kept confidential — anyone interested is asked to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-270-4612 for the location. Ms Crane said once leaders are trained and the group becomes established, future meetings will be at the convenience of the members — hopefully starting by mid-October.
“Right now there are other chapters of the Alliance in Connecticut, but none that are within a convenient distance, so we plan on establishing one here in Newtown,” she said. “We expect that group will eventually draw from other communities in the area.”
As local families prepare their students for a new school year, Ms Crane said anxiety seems to be ramping up, and is evidenced in a measurable increase in calls for agency assistance, referrals, or information.
“Right now we are well prepared with a network of professionals who are ready to handle the increase in calls,” she said. CSW is also continuing to build its network of providers, as well as clients, thanks to its ongoing outreach initiative.
“We’ve been trying to get out to meet with town agencies and local organizations to be sure they know what we are, how we can help, and how to reach us,” Ms Crane said. “Typically, in the days following each meeting, we get a few calls, so we’re happy to know those meetings are working.”
She said responses from agencies and town departments Ms Crane and her staff are visiting are helping CSW put finishing touches on its strategic plan, which is planned for release in late October.
“We want to finish developing a clear strategy and direction for our agency,” she said. “We’re trying to determine which categories of wellness we should tackle here, versus issues that are already being well handled by other local or partnering agencies.”
Growing The Database
At the same time, CSW has already amassed more than 200 agencies and service providers in its referral database as it completed a recent local/regional survey of providers, which Ms Crane plans to update annually.
“We got a 29 percent response rate,” she said, which is above average for such a survey. The information CSW is circulating back to participants is supplemented with how the center and its staff are responding to meet the needs of local providers.
And because CSW is a resource “hub” Ms Crane hopes the survey feedback will provide resources for respondents they may not have known existed. She said according to the survey, the top four presenting client concerns providers are seeing locally are anxiety, PTSD, family/relationship challenges, and depression.
Among the data points:
*85 percent of responding providers are treating clients for symptoms related to 12/14;
*60 percent of responding providers are interested in further training in the Bruce Perry Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) (childtrauma.org/nmt-model);
*82 percent responding providers are willing to use a sliding scale;
*67 percent responding providers are accepting new clients;
*A majority of professionals in Newtown have an LCSW, LMFT, or LPC degrees;
*30 percent are interested in using a private billing for insurance claims;
*80 percent of responding providers take insurance, and;
*46 percent of responding providers have some training or are interested in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or EMDR.
Ms Crane said that CSW hosted EMDR training in December 2016 and February 2017, and because of demand, she hopes to host again in spring 2018. She also reminds providers that CSW maintains a database of clinicians accepting new clients — and those providers are billing an average rate between $120 and $150 an hour.
“We have negotiated a reduced rate with Freedom Solutions Medical Billing Plus,” Ms Crane said of a newly discovered providers service. “They provide expert, comprehensive medical billing services including; benefit verifications, patient account management, claim denial follow-up, accounts receivable management, and many other services to assist in the profitability of your practice.”
Providers can call 203-371-7311 or visit freedomsolutionsmedicalbilling.com for details.
While she said that 80 percent of providers accepting insurance is a great number, CSW is continuing to work with individual providers to help them get on insurance panels.
“This is a sustainability strategy toward the positive mental health of Newtown,” Ms Crane said, adding that 80 percent of providers are seeing one or more clients identifying 12/14-related concerns as their reason for seeking counseling or support.
As a result of the survey feedback, CSW is now planning its 2nd Annual Wellness Provider Networking Night September 14 from 4:30 to 7 pm, where all local behavioral health and wellness providers can meet and learn about each other’s resources. That event is co-hosted by CSW and CT Counselors.
Any agency or provider attending is asked to RSVP through surveymonkey.com/r/sept14farmhouse.
In addition, CSW is hosting a two-part Provider Open Meeting, which will include a discussion about what attendees see as the prevailing behavioral health trends in Newtown, the current gaps in services, and what suggestions providers may have for the center. Coffee and refreshments will be provided.
That two-part event is September 26 at either 9 am or 4 pm to make it easier for more providers to attend. E-mail or call to RSVP or ask questions email@example.com or 203-270-4612.
CSW is also forming a support group for men that is scheduled to begin in late September or early October, and anyone interested in learning more about that can e-mail or call the center.