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Letter: Moving Forward After Newtown

The whole country continues to mourn the deaths of 20 children and six adults who died in last month’s school shooting in Newtown, CT. And while we wait for the motive to emerge and policy proposals to surface, we can speak out now on behalf of families who need greater access to mental health treatment and other social services that ultimately will prove more effective in protecting and strengthening all of us; children, adults and our communities.   

As the head of a human services organization, I believe it is part of our mission to inform and educate the public on important issues facing today’s families in a balanced and professional manner. As the result of this tragic event, there will be a temptation to look for quick answers; overly simplistic, one-size-fits-all solutions.

Of course, we know that the real needs of children, teens and adults cannot be so easily pigeonholed. In reality, we need to advocate for more services to the one in four (or, according to some, one in six) individuals who are affected by a mental illness.

Unfortunately, public funding for these services has been on the decline in recent years. Perhaps one of the concrete outcomes of the focus on Newtown will be a renewed public dialogue that will lead to placing the emphasis where it belongs: early screening and identification and facilitated access to needed services.

What can parents do if they have a child with special needs who may pose a risk to themselves or their community? Most of us do not know the warning signs of potential violence. Many parents may not be sure what the difference is between “normal” teen brooding versus depression that may lead to violence; is my child ill or ill-mannered?  How can we ensure that people in need can more easily get assistance? To help answer that question, FCA will publish information to assist parents with these issues and co-sponsor a public forum early this year to disseminate important information for all parents.

Now, more than ever, we need to work together for the well-being of all.

Philip M. Mickulas, LCSW

President and CEO of Family and Children’s Association