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Tolland mental health task force dissolves as town moves to implement its recommendations
Journal Inquirer - 10/26/2023
Oct. 26—"The task force completed its mission," task force Secretary Jacob Marie said this week. "The Town Council will work on implementing the goals through the Human Services Department."
Marie said that a highlight for the task force was a survey sent out to residents in late 2022, which found that depression and anxiety were prominent in town.
But the group's primary accomplishment, Marie said, was the recommendation to hire a prevention specialist, who will work with the town and provide informational interventions, identify gaps in services, and provide case management for individuals with substance abuse or mental issues.
He said that the specialist would be contracted through the regional Hockanum Valley Community Council.
"I have the highest regard for their director," Tolland Human Services Director Beverly Bellody said of Hockanum Valley. "They have counselors, treatment models, therapists, a full range of services for mental health and substance use."
"The Human Services Department is not large, so they can use the extra assistance," Marie said.
Bellody said that she has a staff of seven, as well as volunteers, that help residents apply for SNAP and Medicaid benefits. The department also runs a food pantry and has a housing rehab program.
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She said she doesn't think the additional duties will be an issue because the department has worked with the task force since it began, and the staff is dedicated.
"We were the staff liaison to the task force," Bellody said. "We've always done a lot; we do what we can to help the community. The staff has a strong work ethic."
Bellody said that a prevention specialist could be hired as early as December and interviews will be held next month to hire an new assistant director, who would be in charge of the youth services bureau.
Marie said that the task force also recommended the need for more community involvement, especially working to find a way to keep kids less isolated after the pandemic.
"Have face-to-face contact," Marie said. "It's important after COVID."
Bellody said that her department is working on programs for young adults in the school system. The summer theater program recently completed its 24th year, and it's a model to keep children busy.
The department also received a $246 increase in its budget from a grant from the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, for a total of $4,153 to address vaping issues.
Bellody said that the department is working on doing a workshop called "Hidden in Plain Sight," where parents will be taught to identify drug paraphernalia in their adolescents' rooms, as well as developing anti-vaping campaigns and prevention programs.
Marie said that the turnover to the Human Services Department is a move that he and the other members of the task force support.
"It's time for the body to dissolve itself and bring it over to the town," Marie said. "I feel it's appropriate. We're on our way to addressing issues with the task force recommendations. I feel good about the future."
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