School Climate & Safety

Newtown Funds for Mental Health Running Low, Charities Report

By Evie Blad — March 17, 2014 1 min read
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Charities who’ve helped cover the cost of mental health treatment and support for Newtown, Conn., residents affected by the Dec. 2012 school shooting there are running low on funds, the Associated Press reports. Because of the number of victims and the horrific nature of the shooting, authorities are uncertain how much funding they need or how long residents will need emotional and psychological support.

'We hear in the media, 'Well Sandy Hook was 14 months ago, isn't everything fine?' ' said Candice Bohr, executive director of the Newtown Youth and Family Services. 'Well, no, it's not and we get calls every day from the school wanting to address an issue. I would love to say that in 10 years we're going to see a huge drop and everyone's better and we've moved on, but that's not the case.' "

Charities have provided free, long-term mental health care in the town, which is now home to bereavement groups for teens and other support services related to the shooting. Several organizations are joining together and sharing funds to try to meet the demand, the AP reports.

Meanwhile, the town is seeking more than $7 million in a federal grant, in part to help cover the next 18 months of costs for the nonprofit agencies providing free mental health care. The grant also would create a 'recovery and resiliency' board, which would help match people with specific services and programs."

There are no road maps for dealing with mass shooting incidents, and those that take place in schools bring their own unique challenges for recovery, trauma experts say. Every incident has its own unique factors, such as the age of the victims or the nature of the attack, and every community must chart its own course to stability. Following the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, school administrators took a number of steps to help people heal, a student’s mother reports in this blog for The Guardian.

In the aftermath, survivors can experience impaired memory and difficulty concentrating and problem-solving. Feelings of victimization often cause defensiveness and a need to assert control. For some, anger is a coping response; others withdraw or disassociate. Trauma responses can be retriggered by sensory memories. To reduce retraumatization, the school library (scene of the most killing) was removed and a new library built elsewhere; food served that day was taken off the cafeteria menu; fire alarms were changed; and Columbine became a balloon-free school—if one popped it sounded like gunfire."

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.