New Haven officials are proposing a new city department. If approved by the Board of Alders, which received the proposal July 29, the Department of Community Resilience would work collaboratively to focus on a range of social issues within the city.
Violence prevention, mental health, homelessness, crisis response and re-entry services would be the department’s points of focus. In a news conference Monday, those who were instrumental in conceptualizing this department explained these issues are often intertwined.
“Very often, an individual who experiences one of these challenges, experiences multiple, if not all of these challenges,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.
Chief among the concerns is city violence. Already in 2021 there have been 17 firearm-related homicides in the city, the same number as all of last year. New Haven hopes to take a holistic approach to reducing this violence.
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“At the heart of violence, you often find trauma, lack of opportunity, and unaddressed mental health challenges,” said New Haven Community Services Administrator Dr. Mehul Dalal.
Around New Haven, there are 17 apartments owned by the Christian Community Action group. These apartments are all provided free of charge to homeless families trying to get back on their feet. Rev. Bonita Grubbs is the organization’s executive director. She says her aim is to provide hope, something she says the formation of the Department of Community Resilience could do.
“I think that the better the coordination, the better the conversation, the better the solution,” said Grubbs.
Mental health is another focal point. Adrian Joseph is the chief operating officer of the Clifford Beers Clinic and says now is the time to make mental health a priority.
“We are seeing that ripple throughout the state but it’s really coming down to what can we do about it here in New Haven,” said Joseph.
Re-entry into society after incarceration is also being addressed. Keisha Gatison says the challenges faced by those who are newly released often overlap other social issues.
“This will allow us to work a little bit closer together. It prevents overlapping services or gaps in services,” Gatison said.
Officials say, operating the department would require an annual cost of $6 million. Of that, $4 million would come from existing funds and another $2 million would be requested from American Rescue Plan funds. The collaborative effort, they say, is necessary.
“Without meaningful engagement and trusted partners who can actually establish relationships with individuals in need we will be stymied in our efforts,” said Dalal.