Connecticut Junior Republic opens Wellness Center Program on Litchfield campus

By:  Ben Lambert
The Register Citizen

LITCHFIELD >> The Connecticut Junior Republic opened a new Wellness Center Friday afternoon with the help of U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who lauded the organization’s efforts to help children and families in need.

“This was a vital community institution to begin with, from its founding,” Murphy said. “But what you’ve done is recognize a need. When we made a decision, as a society, to close our institutional settings, we made a promise — a promise to adults and to children - that we were going to provide a new array of services for them in the community, in much more compassionate, humane settings than institutions.”

Murphy said the Connecticut Junior Republic stepped up to the plate and built a really remarkable diverse array of services, serving thousands of kids on an annual basis.

“And you’ve built that up in an aggressive, bold, and really forward-thinking manner, so I thank you for that,” Murphy said.

The Wellness Center program, which on the Litchfield campus will be housed in the newly-rededicated Michael P. Mortara Family Center, is the latest addition to that array of services.

Murphy went on to share a story to elucidate the gap in the social safety net that services like the Wellness Center program, which is under the direction of Jennifer Grant, helped to fill.

“I went to a safe home for women who had been abused by their spouses or partners in Naugatuck Valley, and I was sitting in the common room across from a little 8-year-old boy who was 24 hours from being removed from his home with a violently-abusive father,” Murphy said. “And you could see the anger welling up in his eyes. You could see how upset he was. You could just feel the trauma that he had just gone through.”

The boy had been going through it for years, Murphy said.

“I asked his caseworker how long it was going to be until he saw someone, he saw a clinician, thinking that the response was going to be hours, maybe days,” Murphy continued.

Unfortunately, the answer was six weeks.

“You can imagine the ripples of trauma that continue in that little boy’s body and mind, going that period of time without seeing someone,” Murphy said. “You are responding to that desparate need. What you have built up over time is the answer, for, frankly, thousands of kids like that little boy, whose trauma is compounded because of a lack of access.”

The new Family Center contains a series of offices and comfortable sitting rooms, which will allow staffers to meet with children and families in need.

“The CJR Wellness Center Program provides mental and behavioral health services for children, youth and families and provides a new dimension of care in the Junior Republic’s continuum of service for young people and families,” wrote representatives of the Connecticut Junior Republic in a release. “Wellness Center resources include psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers and licensed professional counselors who can help children and families address an array of issues.”

Other speakers at the event Friday morning, who addressed an audience of benefactors and admirers of the program, included Dan Rezende, the executive director of CJR, Jennifer Grant, the head of the Wellness Center Program, and Declan Murphy and Patrick J. Boland, respectively, the vice president and president of the CJR Board of Directors.

CJR currently offers programs in Litchfield, Torrington and Waterbury and plans to expand to Manchester, Meriden, New Britain and New Haven in the near-future as well.

The organization expects to have helped more than 100 children, youth and families by the end of the current fiscal year, June 30, and more than 200 over the course of the next, it said in the release.