Building Police-Community Connections As Diversity Lags in Hartford

When Governing magazine examined the diversity within local police departments, compared with the communities they serve, Hartford was among the ten cities with the largest disparity.  But two recent programs that have also received national attention underscore the city’s efforts to strengthen relationships between police and the community. The data indicated that Hartford’s police department was 35.3 percent minority, in a city where the population is 84.1 percent minority.  That was the 7th largest gap in the nation, after Fontana, CA; Edison, NJ; Irving, TX; Grand Prairie TX; Daly City, CA; and Allentown, PA.  Using 2013 data, Governing reviewed 269 local police agencies across the country.

The article points out that “although no national standards regarding diversity levels exist, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies does require accredited agencies to adopt steps to ensure their workforce mirrors their communities.”  It also indicates that “law enforcement experts emphasize that mending fractured relationships with communities takes much more than merely a diverse force.”hartfordltc1

Two locally developed programs, one at the Hartford Public Library (HPL) and the other at the Charter Oak Cultural Center, are working at building police-community relationships.

HPL is one of 10 public libraries in the U.S. that have been participating in the American Library Association’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) initiative since April 2014. The initiative, in collaboration with the nonprofit Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, is an 18-month community engagement training program where libraries learn how to address challenges facing their community.

Hartford’s work was recently featured on the national website of the American Library Association.Week-3-boy-teaching-HPD1-e1435857651518

Through eight community conversations in Hartford’s North End neighborhood, HPL found that residents’ main concerns were public safety, community violence, and their relationship with the police. In response, a three-session community dialogue on public safety with police and community members was held, led by HPL community engagement director Richard Frieder.  Participants ranged in age from 18 to 87.

During the three sessions, according to published reports, the groups got to know each other; talked about what makes a good neighborhood and what they liked about theirs, what they would like to change, how safe community members feel, and what they believed the residents’ and police officers’ roles were in making the community safe; and figured out how to take action and solve the problems.

Some of the ideas generated include having the police and the community members participate in more activities and learning experiences together, such as block parties and community theater, where they address these issues.  Even though the 18-month project officially ends this month, HPL’s staff hopes to sustain the values and goals they developed.

3958730264_662fc1b23f_zAt the same time, another initiative in the city was taking root – one which soon reached the pages of The New York Times and the attention of the White House.

The Charter Oak Cultural Center’s Good Vibrations program began with a conversation between Hartford’s police chief, James Rovella, and the Center’s director, Rabbi Donna Berman.  The innovative program, which began earlier this year, sought to pair middle school age students who were at a crossroads in their lives with Hartford police officers to inspire and inform the youths involved as well as helping to change the community's negative perception of police officers.  Nearly two dozen students – and police officers – collaborate on musical instruments, and in composing rap lyrics.  The relationships built, and music made, has been described as transformative. Good Vibrations includes two free courses; a Rap Poetry/CD production class, and a guitar class. All the materials are free, including the guitars, which students get to keep.

white hosueLast month, a Hartford police officer and a seventh-grader who participate in the program were honored at the White House as "Champions of Change" for their role in helping to build "bridges between youth and law enforcement, while improving public safety," according to the White House. "During the three-and-a-half month program, officers and youth helped to lift the negative stigma between police and youth through open discussions about racism, crime, government, and family."

One participating middle-schooler told the Times: “I thought police officers were just to catch bad guys and be in a bad tone. But these guys are awesome. They’re always in a good tone with us. They play with us. They tag along in our jokes. They do stuff with us. They help us. They give us advice and everything.”



Two CT Students Show Inventions at White House Science Fair

Two Connecticut students were among the featured participants Monday as President Barack Obama hosted the 5th annual White House Science Fair, celebrating the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions across America. The high school students, whose ingenuity has been encouraged by their participation in the Connecticut Invention Convention (CIC), were Mallory Kievman of Manwhite hosuechester and Lilianna Zyszkowski of Southfield, MA, who attends the Indian Mountain School in Lakeville.  Zyszkowsi invented a series of products, including most recently the PillMinder, a pill cap that reminds users when to take their medication. Kievman invented Hiccupops, the world’s first-ever lollipop to help suppress the hiccups.

In addition to meeting with students and reviewing their innovations, President Obama announced new steps as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign to get more girls and boys, especially those from traditionally underrepresented groups, inspired and prepared to excel in the critical STEM fields.

This year is Lilianna Zyszkowski's fourth year with the CIC and her second year as part of the organization’s Next Step Inventor’s Program. Driven to invent things that help people, the 9th grader  has developed a series of CIC award winning inventions that use networked sensors to "mind" things for people.  Her first invention, created with a grandparent in mind, used capacitive touch sensors, LED's and a networked microcontroller to remind people to take their medications on schedule. The PillMinder alerts caregivers via Twitter and SMS whether the proper pills had been taken on time. As a CIC Next Step Inventor, Lilianna is working with a Silicon Valley firm,, to bring the PillMinder technology to market as a pill cap that addresses pill safety and pill taking compliance.optimized

The Connecticut Invention Convention (CIC) is an award winning, internationally recognized, 501(c)(3) educational organization, open to K-8 students statewide, designed to develop, encourage, and enhance critical thinking skills through invention, innovation and entrepreneurship.  The CIC curriculum is standards-based and enables students to research, analyze and effectively focus on and solve their real-life problems.

This year marks the first time that two CIC students were selected to participate in the White House Science Fair.  The Connecticut Invention Convention is the oldest kid invention curriculum and competition in the United States. Annually the CIC serves more than 15,700 students from more than 215 participating schools.  Each year, the top 1,000 student inventors participate in the annual state convention held at the University of Connecticut.  IMG_0860

After enduring recurring bouts of hiccups over an extended period in the 7th grade, Kievman researched the physiology of hiccups and the associated folk remedies that have persisted over time. Hiccups are a nuisance for most, but also a little-known side effect of chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, anesthesia, and other medical treatments—affecting quality of life for already-suffering patients.

Kievman, now in 11th grade at Loomis Chaffee School, identified three approaches that worked to soothe her own hiccups: consuming apple cider vinegar, consuming sugar, and sucking on a lollipop. She combined all three approaches and coined her invention the “Hiccupop” – and is now a patented inventor (US Patent #8,563,030).

Her creation appears to work by over-stimulating a set of nerves in the throat and mouth that may be responsible for the hiccup reflex arc. She has contracted with a specialized facility in Texas to produce her product in volume, and the production line is already moving Hiccupops into the market.WH SciFair

Kievman and Zyszkowski were among 100 students from 30 states who were selected to present their inventions at the White House Science Fair.  As part of the Fair, President Obama announced over $240 million in new private-sector commitments to inspire and prepare more girls and boys – especially those from underrepresented groups – to excel in the STEM fields. With those commitments, the President’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign has resulted in over $1 billion in financial and in-kind support for STEM programs.  The initiatives announced Monday include a “Let Everyone Dream” campaign to expand STEM opportunities to under-represented youth and a Department of Education competition to create science and literacy themed media that inspires students to explore.

"It’s not enough for us to just lift up young people and say, great job, way to go," President Obama said.  "You also have to have labs to go to, and you’ve got to be able to support yourself while you’re doing this amazing research.  And that involves us as a society making the kind of investments that are going to be necessary for us to continue to innovate for many, many years to come."

In addition, the President announced that 120 universities and colleges have committing to train 20,000 engineers to tackle the “Grand Challenges” of 21st century  and a coalition of prominent CEOs, Change the Equation, has committed to expand effective STEM programs to an additional 1.5 million students this year. The White House also recently launched “Untold Stories of photoWomen in Science and Technology” on the White House website.

The White House Science Fair, including remarks to the students by President Obama, was live streamed from the White House.  The White House website includes brief profiles of the students, including Kievman and Zyszkowski, and their innovations were featured in White House announcements during the day.

CIC-logo-with-imaginationinplayLast year, Kievman delivered a keynote speech at the CT Invention Convention, and issued a challenge to the inventors: to develop and commercialize their products and to give back to the community.  She has committed a percentage of the profits from Hiccupops to support programs like the CIC that encourage youth entrepreneurship and innovation.

Attendees joining President Obama and the students at the White House Science included Susan Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief of Scientific American; Jim Gates, Member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST); Dean Kamen, Entrepreneur, Founder of FIRST; Dan Mote, President of the National Academy of Engineering and Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

Planning Underway for 2015 White House Conference on Aging; Connecticut Has 7th Oldest Population

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. It will also be the year when the White House will convene the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. The Conference will be of particular interest in Connecticut, currently the 7th oldest state in the nation based on median age.  The state is undergoing “a permanent and historic transformation in its demographics,” according to the state’s Legislative Commission on Aging (LCA).

The first White House Conference on Aging was held in 1961, with subsequent conferences in 1971, 1981, 1995, and 2005. These conferences have been widely viewed as catalysts for development of aging policy over the past 50 years.

The White House is “fully committed,” to conducting a 2015 conference, and is moving forward developing plans.  Officials intend to seek broad public engagemelogo-WHCOA2015nt and work closely with stakeholders in developing the conference, viewed as “an opportunity to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans for the next decade.”

Given the advances in technology and social media in the past decade, the 2015 Conference is expected to use web tools and social media “to encourage as many older Americans as possible to participate,” according to White House officials.

Among the key issues likely to be included are: retirement security; healthy aging; long-term services and supports to help older adults remain in their communities; and preventing financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect of older adults.

According to the Connecticut for Livable Communities report, issued earlier this year by the LCA, the state’s 65 and older population is projected to grow by 57% between 2010 and 2040. During the same period, Connecticut’s 20- to 64-year-old population is projected to grow less than 2%.

“In 2010, there were 4.35 working-age people for each person age 65 and older in Connecticut,” according to the CLCA. “In 2030, there will be only 2.75.”  More than one-third of the Connecticut population is over the age of 50, according to the report, and that proportion continues to rise. Residents born in Connecticut today, the report indicates, can expect to live to be 80.8 years old—the third highest life expectancy in the nation.

Nationally in 2013, there were 44.7 million Americans aged 65 and over and 6 million aged 85 and over.  Over the next 50 years, the number of people aged 65 and older is expected to more than double to 92 million and the number of people aged 85 and older is expected to triple to 18 million.

Among the key areas expected to be highlighted during the Conference, according to the White House website:282f3319af64c02e9f_h7m6bq4iz

  • Retirement security - Financial security in retirement provides essential peace of mind for older Americans, but requires attention during our working lives to ensure that we are well prepared for retirement.
  • Healthy aging will be all the more important as baby boomers age. As medical advances progress, the opportunities for older Americans to maintain their health and vitality should progress as well and community supports, including housing, are important tools to promote this vitality.
  • Long-term services and supports - Older Americans overwhelmingly prefer to remain independent in the community as they age. They need supports to do so, including a caregiving network and well-supported workforce.
  • Elder justice - Seniors, particularly the oldest older Americans, can be vulnerable to financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect. The Elder Justice Act was enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, aimed at protecting seniors from scam artists and others seeking to take advantage of them.

In 2013, there were 75.9 million baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) accounting for almost one-quarter of the population. Baby boomers began turning 65 years old in 2011.  Between 1980 and 2013, the centenarian population more than doubled from 32,194 in 1980 to 67,347 in 2013.

Between 1990 and 2013, the labor force participation rate of people age 65 and over increased from 12% to 19%.  Among the population age 65 and over, there are 128 women for every 100 men. At age 85 and over this ratio increases to 196 women for every 100 men.

Earlier this year, Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, announced that Nora Super will be leading this effort as the Executive Director of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.

Additional information can be obtained by contacting: White House Conference on Aging, 200 Independence Avenue SW, Suite 637D, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Washington, DC  20201, (202) 619-3636, Individuals can also sign up for updates as plans develop, at

Mystic Aquarium Honored at White House Ceremony with National Medal

Mystic Aquarium has earned some high profile attention this month, recognized at a White House ceremony hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) honored Mystic Aquarium as the only aquarium or zoo nationwide to receive its National Medal for Museum and Library Service for 2014. Impressively, Mystic Aquarium was one of four Connecticut finalists considered for the National Medal, along with the Hartford Public Library, Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury and Otis Library in Norwich. A total of only 30 institutions across the country were finalists, from which ten winners were ultimately chosen.

The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to their communities. The Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent agency of the U.S. govemedal_lg-400x405rnment with the mission to create strong libraries and museums that connect people with information and ideas, is celebrating its 20th year of saluting institutions that make a difference for individuals, families and communities.

Mystic Aquarium gives back to the community with a direct financial impact of $72.2 million annually. In addition, the aquarium buys $5 million in services and supplies from Connecticut businesses annually. The institution’s conservation efforts protect the vitality of Long Island Sound, an important revenue-generating natural resource for Connecticut. It is the largest informal science education provider in Connecticut and Southeastern New England, reaching 100,000 students annually. whale

The work of Mystic Aquarium was brought to the attention of Susan H. Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, by some of Connecticut’s most prominent cultural, education and government leaders. Rodney A. Butler, Mystic Aquarium Trustee and Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, nominated the Aquarium for the National Medal, noting the pivotal role the Aquarium plays with its education and cultural exchange program for Native American high school students from the village of Point Lay, Alaska, and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in southeastern Connecticut.

A major criterion for the award is the institution’s impact on members of its local community. Dr. Stephen M. Coan, President and CEO of Sea Research Foundation, the parent of Mystic Aquarium, who accepted the National Medal from Mrs. Obama, said: “We are honored to receive this prestigious award. We are committed to our educational and public engagement programs that make Mystic Aquarium not only an enjoyable family destination, but also a research facility dedicated to protecting our oceans and its aquatic creatures.”

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy supported the nomination along with Stonington Public Schools, which cited the Aquarium’s exemplary work with young people with intellectual disabilities. Michael Cotela, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Stamford extolled the Aquarium’s critical educational programming for underserved communities.

Founded in 1973, Mystic Aquarium has a collection of 4,00Medals2014_Mystic0 animals, including such species as beluga whales and the endangered African Penguin.


PHOTO (Left to right): Justin Richard, Stephen M. Coan, Mrs. Obama.

UConn Applications Climb; Board of Regents Makes Commitments on Remediation at White House Summit

Who is attending college in Connecticut – and who is not – was the central topic of conversation in Storrs and at the White House Thursday.

At a White House summit on expanding college opportunity, the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (ConnSCU) system was among more than three dozen colleges, universities and systems issuing promises of specific policy steps to be taken to improve college access and completion rates, with a particular focus on low-income students.   Connecticut Board of Regents President Gregory W. Gray was among those in attendance.

As part of the day-long summit, the White House released a 90-page “Commitments to Action” summary that included new commitments from over 100 colleges and universities and 40 organizations “to build on their existing efforts.”  The steps the institutions will be taking follow calls from President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and others to improve higher education opportunity in the United States, in response to the nation’s diminishing standing compared with other nations.

As education, business awhite hosuend nonprofit officials were meeting in Washington, the University of Connecticut, the state’s flagship institution, announced that the number of high school students seeking admission to UConn’s Storrs campus next fall has jumped significantly over last year’s figures, comprising a pool of potential freshmen with even higher average SAT scores and more diversity than previous years’ applicants.

More than 29,500 students applied as of Wednesday’s due date, a 10 percent increase over last year’s number, according to UConn officials. The number of minority applicants also increased by 16 percent – described as an important consideratiouconn-new-logon in UConn’s commitment to diversity.   Officials pointed out that the jump in UConn applications runs counter to national and regional trends in which declines in the number of high school graduates have caused many universities to see their applications and enrollments level off or decrease.

Enrollment Moving in Opposite Directions

The Board of Regents system – which includes more than 90,000 students attending the state’s 17 public colleges and universities (except UConn, which is outside the system) – has seen the largest drop in students among the state’s public and private higher education sectors. At Connecticut's four state universities (Central, Eastern, Southern, Western), enrollment was down 2.2 percent to 34,062 this year compared to 2012, reflecting the continued losses in the number of part-time graduate students. Enrolllogo-connscument at the community colleges fell 2.1 percent to 56,977, reflecting losses in both full and part time students.

Full-time undergraduate enrollment among member institutions of the private Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges (CCIC) rose by nearly 2.5 percent this past fall. In fact, nine of the 16 CCIC member institutions had an increase in enrollment and five of these institutions hit new enrollment records: Goodwin College, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, University of New Haven, and the University of Saint Joseph. In contrast, only five of twenty three public institutions showed an increase in enrollment.CCIC

According to Thursday’s newly released White House document, “Connecticut commits to planning an evaluation of pilot data to assess and improve upon efforts to implement remediation redesign throughout post-secondary institutions in the state.  Efforts will support improvements to remediation curriculum and practices on campuses.”  One of the panel discussion Thursday in Washington D.C. focused on the remediation issue, in which students graduating high school but not quite ready for college have traditionally taken non-credit bearing courses to prepare for college.

Focus on Remediation

The Connecticut legislature in 2012 passed a new law that requires public colleges to embed remedial education in credit-bearing courses, with extra tutoring and assistance for students who need remedial help. The bill had concerned some faculty at the institutions, who felt that abolishing all remedial classes would be unworkable, considering the learning deficiencies of some incoming students. Beginning with the Fall 2014 semester, the new law allows institutions to offer a student no more than one semester of non-embedded remedial support.

Connecticut wiCommitments to Actionll be hosting two upcoming events focusing on the remediation issue, the White House report indicated:

  • A“Multiple Measures Summit,” which will offer information and applicability of various methods of placement assessment for consideration of state community colleges and universities.
  • A “Remediation Conference,” which “will serve as an opportunity for state-wide collaboration outlining best practices of the piloting of intensive, embedded and transitional remedial education initiatives.  Data results will be shared along with ideas for scalability.”

The “Commitments to Action” document also notes that “The Board of Regents is currently conducting 139 pilots consisting of both math and English, intensive and embedded programming across the 17 ConnSCU institutions… Data will be analyzed by institution and system faculty/administration to highlight challenges for adaptation and strengths for duplication.”   It has been estimated that by 2020, 70 percent of Connecticut’s jobs will require post-secondary education.

Among UConn’s larger applicant pool, several stand-out programs – including engineering, business, digital media, and allied health sciences – are among the disciplines that saw significant increases in interest from the potential new UConn students who applied for admission.  With substantial financial support from the Governor and state legislature, UConn is investing in new faculty, updating its academic plan, and planning for the Next Generation Connecticut initiative to revolutionize its STEM (science, technology, engineering acollege enrollmentnd math) curricula.

UConn will begin notifying this year’s applicants with offers of admissions starting March 1, with the targeted new class of Storrs freshmen estimated to be around 3,550 students. The number of applicants has more than doubled since 2001, when the University received about 13,600 applications.

UConn’s Next Generation Connecticut initiative, a $1.5 billion 10-year state-funded investment, is expected to attract $270 million in research dollars, $527 million in new business activity, and fund the hiring of 259 new faculty members and the enrollment of an additional 6,580 undergraduate students, as well as the construction of new labs and facilities, expansion of digital media and risk management degree programs and development of student housing at UConn’s Stamford campus.

President Obama has set a goal of having the United States achieve the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.  The U.S., which was once ranked #1 in the world, has fallen from the top 10, and current projections indicate that decent will continue without corrective actions, such as those outlined by participants in the White House-led effort.

Connecticut Resident Selected as Presidential Innovation Fellow, White House Announces

A Connecticut resident is one of 43 “incredible Americans” selected as new Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIFs), to serve 6- to 12-month intensive “tours of duty” in the US Government, where they will work hand-in-hand with top government innovators to develop solutions that can save lives, save taxpayer money, and help fuel private-sector job creation.

Nayan Jain is a Presidential Innovation Fellow working on the MyData Initiatives (Blue Button) at the Department of Health and Human Services.  Jain is an engineer and healthcare hacker with a passion for developing software that is able to simplify complexities by reducing noise and finding patterns in data.  His career in health IT began as an undergraduate with a dwhite hosueesign for an administrative database for the Department of Neurosurgery at Emory Hospital.

The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program was created in 2012 to tackle five inaugural projects—each focused on making a part of the Federal Government work better for the American people.  Each team of innovators is supported by a broader community of interested citizens throughout the country. Presidential Innovation Fellows put aside their jobs and day-to-day home lives to offer their skills and expertise in collaboration with Federal agency teammates to create huge value for the American public.

The 1st round of five projects was launched in August 2012 with 18 inaugural Fellows. The first round selections included Nick Bramble, Director of the Law & Media Program, Information Society Project at Yale Law School in New Haven.  Bramble is a lawyer with a strong interest in improving how governments release data and promote engagement by citizens and startups.

The 2nd round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program will include ten projects,– four that are the second phases of Round 1 projects and six new projects. Presidential Innovation Fellows have a unique oppoNayan Jainrtunity to serve our Nation and make an impact on a truly massive scale.  The MyData Initiatives seek to spread the ability for people to securely access to their own data while spurring the growth of private-sector applications and services that a person can use to crunch his or her own data for a growing array of useful purposes.

After graduating and a stint writing applications for back-office propane systems, Nayan Jain  joined the DC-based startup, Audax Health.  While serving as Director of Mobile Technology at Audax, he helped build the core Zensey mobile and web platforms that aim to drive behavior change through consumer engagement and social game mechanics.  He collaborated to build MedTuner, an artificial intelligence that alerts its followers of important health events using techniques in machine learning and natural language processing, which was awarded first place at the 2012 Health 2.0 Developers’ World Cup in San Francisco, CA.

Most recently, he selected by Google to be a Glass Explorer and is looking forward to building wearable experiences that will help improve lives and patient outcomes.  He graduated with a BS in Computational Media, primarily focused on Human Computer Interaction and Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.  He currently lives in Connecticut, but spends his spare time in New York, according to the PIF announcement.innovation fellows

Jennifer Pahlka, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation reports that some of the tech innovators and change-agents who comprise the new class of Fellows will work on second phases of Round 1 PIF projects such as Blue Button (which is helping veterans and others across the country gain secure electronic access to their own personal health records); Open Data (which is making more and more government information like car safety ratings and hospital pricing available for use by the American people, including entrepreneurs and software developers who are turning those data into useful products and services); MyUSA (which is greatly simplifying the Web interface that citizens can use to find what they need from the Federal Government); and RFP-EZ.

For Round 2 of the PIF program, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have partnered with the US General Services Administration (GSA).  Through this new partnership with GSA, which already works with every agency in the Federal Government, the prototype solutions that PIFs build will spread more efficiently throughout Government, enabling the program’s positive outcomes to reach more people more quickly.

For example, through Blue Button – a growing initiative across the public and private sectors – patients can download their own health information from a growing array of organizations (the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health system, private-sector health care providers, etc.) and securely share their medical histories with caregivers, import their prescription histories into mobile reminder apps, and more.

Others will work on new projects, such as developing tech tools to support disaster relief and recovery efforts; working with private-sector innovators to create consensus tech standards for the “Internet of Things,” which will connect a wide range of devices with embedded sensors and control systems, with big potential efficiencies and cost-savings; and helping Federal agencies save money through better, more cost-effective financial accounting systems.

Details on the entire class of Presidential Innovation Fellows is available on the web, and details about current and future rounds of the PIF program is at,

 presidential innovation fellows

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.