(Norwalk, Conn.) Today, June 5, 2023, Mayor Rilling announced that the City plans to allocate $550,000 to Mid-Fairfield Community Care Center (Mid Fairfield) for Norwalk Public Schools’(NPS) Middle School Mental Health Initiative for the 2023-2024 school year, pending the Board of Estimate and Taxation’s (BET) approval. Mayor Rilling made this request to the BET after identifying contingency funding from the City’s 2022-2023 Operating Budget. If approved, this expense would be the City of Norwalk’s largest commitment towards the NPS’ Middle School Mental Health Initiative.
“Much like the rest of the nation, a growing number of Norwalk’s youth are experiencing mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic and it was imperative for the City to find the funding needed to prioritize our youth’s mental health needs,” said Mayor Rilling. “I listened to the concerns and comments of parents and educators during public hearings this budget season and worked to identify where we could find the funding for this urgent need. Through responsible budgetary decisions and our continued partnership with Mid-Fairfield Community Care Center, this critical funding will provide our most vulnerable students and their families easy access to Mid-Fairfield-mental health clinicians that will be embedded in all Norwalk Middle Schools. Norwalk is also fortunate to have a robust network of community partners that continue to support the growing mental health needs of Norwalk’s youth throughout our city.”
“The City of Norwalk’s strong commitment to children’s mental health will enable Mid-Fairfield to continue helping middle schoolers who struggle with complex mental health needs that require more intensive interventions than ever before,” said Marissa Mangone, Senior Officer of Business Development and Community Partnerships at Mid Fairfield Community Care Center. “During the 2023 school year, our Middle School Mental Health Initiative provided in-school services to students who struggled with serious depression, anxiety, and other trauma-related difficulties. Mayor Rillings’ funding commitment will allow Mid-Fairfield to help even more students during the 2024 school year.”
“Norwalk Public Schools appreciates the ongoing support and commitment by Mayor Harry Rilling and the City of Norwalk to ensure our scholars have the access to the necessary resources for their social and emotional well-being,” said Dr. Alexandra Estrella, Superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools.
Since 2016, Mid-Fairfield, one of the leading trauma experts in the community, has been collaborating with NPS and the City of Norwalk to provide hundreds of students, families, and school staff with ready access to school-embedded, culturally responsive, trauma-informed mental health services, supported by a network of mental health professionals working collaboratively with schools and other community-based providers. Mid-Fairfield’s trauma-focused, school-based model of care is improving the community’s ability to identify trauma in children/adolescents, expand equitable access to trauma-focused services, and build a foundation and framework that creates safe and supportive environments that foster resilience and recovery, which are critical for improving student outcomes. The integration of a community-based mental health agency within NPS allows students and their families access to services that leverage resources currently unavailable in the traditional school setting.
Through surveys conducted by Positive Directions for The Norwalk Partnership, research indicates that children/adolescents are experiencing more acute and complex mental health needs that require more intensive interventions than ever before. A significant percentage of these students live in low-income and/or poverty-level households that cannot afford or access private mental health services for their children.