Tolan’s mental health task force has ‘done its mission’

TOOLLAND — Officials say the Mental Health and Substance Use Advisory Task Force has done its job, but concerns about the health of town residents will not go unnoticed. That’s because the town’s Department of Human Services will now work to put the task force’s recommendations into effect.

The task force, which first met in March 2021, was tasked with forming a multidisciplinary team to assess the town and community’s response and resources available to address mental health and substance abuse issues. It was also directed to make recommendations to the town council based on its assessment.

“The task force accomplished its mission,” Task Force Secretary Jacob Marie said this week. “The Town Council will work through the Department of Human Services to achieve these goals.”

Mary said a highlight of the task force was a survey conducted with residents in late 2022, which found that depression and anxiety were prominent issues in the town.

But Mary said the group’s main accomplishment was the recommendation to hire a prevention specialist who would work with the town to provide informational interventions, identify gaps in services and provide case management for individuals with substance abuse or mental issues.

The specialist will be contracted through the regional Hokanum Valley Community Council, he said.

“I have the highest respect for their supervisors,” Tolland Public Services Director Beverly Bellody said of Hokanum Valley. “They have counselors, treatment models, therapists, wraparound services for mental health and substance abuse.”

“The Department of Human Services is small, so they could use additional assistance,” Mary said.

Bellodi said she has a staff of seven as well as volunteers who help residents apply for SNAP and Medicaid benefits. The department also operates a food pantry and a housing rehabilitation program.

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