January 1st, 2018

Grant to enhance rural services

Clinical & Support Options (CSO), a comprehensive behavioral health agency that serves residents in western Massachusetts, recently received a federal grant that provides $450,000 over a three-year period. The grant is one of three given by the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and is designated to support the Rural Access Project.

According to CEO Karin Jeffers, LMHC, the agency will use the funds to expand its Center for Community Resilience after Trauma (CCRT) program. “This program assists victims of crime ranging from drunk driving and domestic violence to home break-ins and sexual abuse. We offer a unique response,” she said. “We might help someone with post-victimization and mental health issues, self care and navigating the system, anything from life adjustment to serious mental health problems.”

Jeffers explained that applicants were asked to focus on a specific population when applying for the grant. “We asked to serve rural residents. [The grant] allows us to do a needs assessment of the region. We’ll see what exists and what we still need,” she said. “We will be able to do more significant outreach and add staff.” The CCRT program currently employs four workers and will add another three, according to Jeffers.

Work will begin immediately and for the first six months, will involve a “comprehensive scope of interviews with community stakeholders and survivors,” Jeffers noted. “We want to find out where the gaps are as we create outreach. But we don’t want to duplicate existing services.”

CSO currently partners with several other agencies, such as the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition and the Northwestern District Attorney’s office, and will create additional relationships.

Northwestern’s District Attorney David Sullivan has worked closely with CSO on many occasions and looks forward to collaborating again. “The DOJ grant for victims of crime in rural areas is a great benefit. The treatment for trauma, suffered by victims of crime, is essential for helping children and adults to heal and thrive,” he said. “Unfortunately, the resources in rural areas are limited. This grant will help bridge the gap with additional mental health services. Our victim advocates are thrilled to have improved avenues to help people deal with the impacts of crime.”

Jeffers reported that CSO has received two previous federal grants. A three-year award enabled the agency to work with the council for behavioral health to “train the trainers” and offer mental health first aid training for lay people. “We have trained 2,000 people,” she said.

A second, five-year grant facilitated the creation of a child trauma treatment center to educate clinicians in the best practices for treating pediatric patients. “We specifically focused on military families,” Jeffers said. “When parents are deployed, children are traumatized.”

Jeffers views this recent grant as a particularly significant accomplishment. “We are very pleased with the award, especially when you look at where the other two grants went,” she said. Organizations in the much larger cities of San Francisco and Denver received similar awards. “We’re looking forward to what we may learn.”

By Phyllis Hanlon

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