Mental Health and Community Well-Being Is Focus of Initiative Honoring Memory of Ana Grace Márquez-Greene

The  parents of Ana Marquez-Greene, one of the students whose life was tragically ended at Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly a year ago, have announced plans to convene "Love Wins,"  a day-long conference for those concerned with mental health and community well-being to help build connections that prevent and cope with trauma.

 To be held on December 2 at the University of Hartford, the conference is the inaugural initiative of The Ana Grace Project, and is designed to “promote love, community and connection for every child and family,” and a day dedicated to honoring Ana Grace.

Nelba Márquez-Greene and Jimmy Greene have dedicated themselves to creating real solutions to the kind of violence that took their daughter’s life.  They have developed The Center for Community and Connection in partnership with the Klingberg Family Centers as a transformational initiative of The Ana Grace Project to identify the most effective ways to build community and interpersonal connection to prevent violence and promote recovery. The Center aims to accomplish this objective through research, practical tools, professional development and public policy.

The Center was inspired by the heart and soul of Ana Grace’s mother, Nelba Márquez-Greene, LMFT, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist employed by Klingberg Family Centers. Nelba Márquez-Greene and Jimmy Greene “believe that love and community are the antidotes for violence and are spurred on not onAna Gracely by their loss but by their faith and the belief that it is always best to “Overcome Evil with Good,” according to the organization’s website.

Nelba Márquez-Greene and Jimmy Greene are both alumni of the University of Hartford.

The program on Dec. 2 will feature Bruce Perry, MD, Ph.D., as its keynote speaker and is a collaboration of the resources of Western Connecticut State University, Central Connecticut State University, the University of Hartford, Klingberg Family Centers and Stanley Black and Decker.  Perry is the Senior Fellow of The Child Trauma Academy, a not-for-profit organization based in Houston, TX, and adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

A workshop on Creating Compassionate Communities by Christopher Kukk will address weaving compassion into the fabric of learning (schools) and living (cities and towns) communities, drawing upon ideas from neuroscience, psychology, evolutionary biology, economics and other social sciences. Dr. Kukk is Professor of Political Science at Western Connecticut State University and founding Director of the Center for Compassion, Creativity and Innovation.

A session to be led by Alice Forrester will describe New Haven's efforts to reduce the impact of adverse childhood experiences using a two-generational approach.  Participants will discuss how collaboration and grass roots activism can impact children and families facing mental health challenges.  Dr. Forrester is the Executive Director of the Clifford Beers Child Guidance Clinic in New Haven, a community-based, mental health center for excellence for the treatment of children and families.  She was appointed by Governor Malloy to sit on the Sandy Hook Commission and has served as the Project Director of two National Child Traumatic Stress Network grants.

“For anyone whose child has been the victim of senseless violence it can seem almost impossible to go on. Grappling with anger and despair, you search for a way to redeem what has been lost, said Nelba Márquez-Greene on the organization’s website.  “And here we stand, knowing we must do something, something meaningful, to help all of us turn the page and begin the next chapter. Our hope as a family is to invest in creating solutions that will draw these individuals away from violence and replace it with the powerful love and connection that can only be found in a healthy community of caring.”

Additional session topics include the human cost of unmet mental needs in our cities, Mental Health First Aid, Circle of Security Parenting and Teaching and Learning with Compassion.

Conference participants will learn about and contribute to best practices in building community and interpersonal connections to prevent violence and promote recovery. Organizers anticipate that conference outcomes will contribute to a shared body of knowledge for community members, parents, and professionals to create their own roles in building connections that “will enable love to win.”

The program will also include presentations by Steven Girelli, Ph.D., President & CEO, Klingberg Family Centers; Bryan Gibb, M.B.A., National Council of Behavioral Health; Deborah McCarthy, O.T., Mindfullness Collaborative for Youth and Schools; Adi Flesher, M.Ed., Garrison Institute; Isabel Pacheco Logan, L.C.S.W., Office of the Public Defender;  Keith Gaston, M.S.W.,  Village for  Families and Children;  Charlie Slaughter, M.P.H., R.D., Department of Children and Families; Geoffry Scales, Hartford Juvenile Probation;  Karl Koistein, L.C.S.W., DCF;  and Iran Nazarrio, COMPASS Youth Collaborative.

There will also be a performance piece about gun violence by Janis Astor del Valle and Lara Herscovitch, and a performance by the Connecticut Children’s Chorus.  CEUs will be available for teachers.  Registration and additional information is available at

Founded in 1903, Klingberg Family Centers is a private nonprofit charitable organization offering an array of treatment programs. The organization’s programs are designed to serve children and families whose lives have been affected by trauma in its various forms, family difficulties, and mental health issues.

Connecticut Well Represented in National Mental Health Dialogue

Keeping a commitment made in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders last December, President Barack Obama launched a national mental health dialogue at the White House Monday aimed at increasing understanding and awareness of mental health, and Connecticut organizations are involved in the efforts from the outset.

Among the initiatives announced during the day-long conference was a new national website,, and a series of public meetings to be held around the country under the “Creating Community Solutions” rubric.  Two of those community conversations will be in Connectwhite hosueicut – in Hartford and Norwalk – and one of the six national organizations coordinating the initiative has its headquarters in East Hartford.

The Center for Civic Engagement at the Hartford Public Library will organize the Hartford event as part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health. In response to unprecedented need for civic engagement, Hartford Public Library created the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE). The CCE aims to create a community change process, foster development of a community vision, contribute to a stronger, more successful community, and establish a civic engagement model.

The dialogue in Norwalk will be co-sponsored by the Fairfield County Community Foundation and the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board.  The Fairfield County Community Foundation promotes philanthropy to build and sustain a vital and prosperous community where all have the opportunCCSity to participate and thrive.  The Southwest Regional Mental Health Board is dedicated to ensure a quality system of comprehensive, recovery oriented mental health and addiction services that enhances the quality of life and well being of all residents of Southwest Connecticut.

The Creating Community Solutions initiative will allow participants to learn about mental health issues - from each other and from research - and to develop plans to improve mental health in their own communities, according to officials.   The national dialogue is to include young people who have experienced mental health problems, members of the faith community, foundations, and school and business leaders.

Among the six national “deliberative democracy” organizations involved in developing the Creating Community Solutions program is East Hartford-based Everyday Democracy, according to federal officials.  Everyday Democracy helps people organize, have dialogues, and take action on issues they care about, so that they can create communities that work for everyone. Its ultimate goal is to contribute to the creation of a strong, equitable democracy that values everyone's voice and participation.    Details about Everyday Democracy's role in the initiative and how partner communities and organizations can get involved will be available on the organization’s website in the coming dEDLOGOays.

Details regarding the date, location and registration information for the Hartford and Norwalk sessions will be available on a new website, at  The site is part of the national mental health website, which was created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   Thus far, community dialogues have been scheduled in New Mexico, California, Alabama, and Arizona, and an additional 29 sites – including the two in Connecticut – are making plans.   A Facebook page,, has also been launched.

Materials to support the conversations are being developed and will shortly be available for download, including an Information Brief, Organizing Guide and Discussion Guide.  In addition to Everyday Democracy, the organizations working together to design and implement Creating Community Solutions are America Speaks, Deliberative Democracy Consortium, National Issues Forums, the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, and the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

In addition, a number of national associations are asking their members or affiliates to organize local events. These groups include the United Way, American Bar Association, National League of Cities, YWCA, National School Public Relations Association, 4-H, Grassroots Grantmakers, Alliance for Children and Families, National Physicians Alliance, Association for Rural and Small Libraries, and the International Association for Public Participation, among others.

Data Emerges on $20.4 Million Raised by Charities After Sandy Hook Shootings

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and State Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein have made public information collected from dozens of charities related to the shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.  The data collected thus far indicates that 43 charities have collected nearly $20.4 million and have distributed nearly $2.9 million.

Among their charitable purposes, as reported by the organizations, are:  to provide direct financial support or other assistance to the 26 families who lost loved ones; to create scholarships and an endowment to support Newtown’s children and youth; to purchase memorial trees; pay for  construction of a physical memorial to those lost; and to recognize, support and inspire acts of kindness.

 The information was provided in response to a request for information by the Attorney General and Commissioner. The letter and short survey were sent March 28 to 69 charities either registered with the state Department of Consumer Protection, or publically identified as having accepted donations related to Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 children and six adults were killed on Dec. 14, 2012. The charities were asked to respond by April 12.

 “This request was an initial step to provide information to the public, Newtown community and other charitable organizations trying to meet the needs of those affected by this tragedy,” said Attorney General George Jepsen.

There were 22 organizations that have not responded to the letter of inquiry as of April 15, and Jepsen said his office will be following up with each of them. The collected information is available on the Attorney General’s and Consumer Protection websites as a service to the public, however, the postings should not be considered an endorsement of any charity by the agencies or by the Statsandy_hook_school_Sign_balloons_thg_121215_wge.

Commissioner Rubenstein said, “We see this as a good first step toward providing transparency to the activities of the various funds, and guiding future donors who may wish to make a contribution.”  Among those outlining their fundraising and spending are the United Way of Western Connecticut, Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, Newtown Pride and the University of Connecticut Foundation.

 The charities were asked about their organization, services and funds, including the dollar amount of any donations and pledges to date; and the purposes for which money was being collected.  “Our offices may reach out in the future to all the charities to determine how the donations were expended and the steps taken to prevent fraud or misuse of funds,” Rubenstein said.

 Links are available to view:

 Survey results     Survey Questions       List of charities

 In addition, the Attorney General and Commissioner also asked charities and members of the public to refer names of other organizations collecting donations for Sandy Hook-related purposes.

 The Attorney General’s Office website also notes that Connecticut law requires groups that “ask in our state for anything of value to benefit a charitable purpose or charitable organization to register, or claim an exemption from registration, with the Public Charities Unit” of the office.   Companies that are paid to solicit on behalf of charities, usually by telephone, are also required to register.  The website explains that “registration is mandatory and does not imply that the state endorses any particular organization or paid soliciting company.”

The Public Charities Unit receives annual financial reports for registered charities.  According to the website, “Information on how the charity spends its money may help you decide whether you wish to support the organization with your donations.   If you have been solicited by telephone, we will also tell you how much of your donation goes to the charity and how much will stay with the paid solicitor.”

Regardless of the charity’s location, if the group intends to ask in Connecticut for anything of value to benefit a charitable purpose or other charitable organization, it must register to solicit (or claim an exemption from registration) by filing a form with the Public Charities Unit.

CT's Mental Health Services Ranking is Good, But "Citizens Deserve Better"

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), in its ranking of states in 2009, placed Connecticut as among the top six states in the nation, along with Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oklahoma.  However, it described Connecticut as “a state of paradoxes” in mental health care and treatment, stressing that “Connecticut’s citizens deserve far better.” The state ranked 31st in the prevalence of mental illness, with 108,730 individuals, according to the organization, which pointed out that even in states with solid grades, “there is no doubt that many of their residents living with serious mental illnesses are not receiving the services and supports they need.”

Connecticut’s overall grade was “B,” according to the report, “Grading the States 2009.”  The Alliance graded states in four categories:  

  • Health Promotion and Measurement,
  • Financing & Core Treatment/Recovery Services,
  • Consumer & Family Empowerment, and
  • Community Integration and Social Inclusion.

Connecticut received a “C” in Community Integration and Social Inclusion, an “A” in Consumer and Family Empowerment – the only state in the nation to receive the top grade – and a “B” in the other two categories.

Three “urgent needs” were noted for Connecticut:  Increase community-based services, housing as an alternative to more restrictive placements, and ending nursing home warehousing.

In the days after the mass killings of 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, questions have been raised about the role of mental health services as part of a state and national response to the tragedy.

Overall, NAMI gave the United States a grade of “D.”  In the 2009 report, NAMI reviewed progress made since the organization’s previous state-by-state report in 2006, and found state mental health agencies “making valiant efforts to improve systems and promote recovery despite rising demand for services, serious workforce shortages, and inadequate resources.  Many states are adopting better policies and plans, promoting evidence-based practices, and encouraging more peer-run and peer-delivered services.”

However, NAMI reported that “these improvements are neither deep nor widespread enough to improve the national average. The grades for almost half the states (23) remain unchanged since 2006, and 12 states have fallen behind.”

Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year, according to data cited by NAMI, which  is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for Americans affected by mental illness.

The 2009 report concluded that “Without a significant commitment from our nation’s leaders—in Washington, among governors, and in state legislatures—state mental health agencies will continue to struggle to provide even minimally adequate services to people living with serious mental illnesses.”

Specifically, the report noted that as a nation, “We have too few psychiatric beds, treatment services, and community-based supports for those who need them; people with mental illnesses are neglected until they reach the point of crisis, and are then dumped onto other systems. Across the nation, people with mental illnesses are unnecessarily incarcerated, homeless, out of work, and unable to access needed medicines. On top of it all, we have an extremely limited capacity to monitor and measure our own efforts—the very foundation of effective reform.”

See NAMI video