Newtown officials plan to ask the federal government next week for millions of dollars for mental health counseling for hundreds of people affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra announced Tuesday night that the town will apply to the Department of Justice for an $8 million, 18-month grant.
The funds, which also would include money for local school security and nonprofit groups, would come from the Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program, which has awarded money to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and other school shootings across the country.
The counseling aid would reimburse ongoing and new mental health counseling for about 400 people affected by the December 2012 fatal shootings of 20 first-graders and six educators, the News-Times reports. It would help people with longer-term counseling needs, including police officers and other first responders.
The exact grant funding amount for counseling hasn't been finalized, but officials say it will total several million dollars.
"This is about building a safety net of ongoing support for those in the mental health system, and to capture new people who have needs," Llodra said.
Mental health experts believe the Sandy Hook Elementary School population and the broader community will have ongoing counseling needs for at least 15 more years, she said. But there isn't enough money in place to provide long-term help.
Town leaders want to establish a "Recovery and Resiliency Team" that will provide counseling services. The team would include a clinical recovery director, two case workers, a project manager and a community outreach liaison.
A board of directors including town and school officials, clergy and health professionals would oversee the team.
The town of Newtown would get about half the $8 million, including about $2.1 million for the new team, Linda Cimino, director of the Connecticut Judicial Branch's Office of Victim Services, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Cimino's office is helping Newtown write the grant application. The town's share also would include $1.2 million for additional building security measures.
The other half of the grant, Cimino said, would go to local nonprofit groups for counseling programs and other services they provide, and to a local Catholic school for security improvements.
"This funding really is to provide supplemental funding when a community is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the crime," she said.
More than 250 families have been getting help paying for counseling from three local nonprofit groups — the Newtown Lions Club, the Newtown Rotary Club and the Newtown Memorial Fund. Those organizations and Newtown Youth and Family Services have been providing the aid through donations and fundraising efforts.
"This is a very costly endeavor to create," Llodra said.