The Torrington Family Service Center helps residents in need

Torrington — During the COVID-19 pandemic, agencies like Catholic Charities’ Torrington Family Service Center have been doing their best to stay in touch with clients.

Using Zoom, Microsoft Teams or gotomeeting, many businesses and organizations have created an online community for meetings and classes, joining thousands of other organizations and employers who have turned to digital technology to bridge the digital divide. isolation and communication, and to make things work.

But he was slow to bring people back in person. And the team at Catholic Charities’ Torrington office want people to know they are there for anyone seeking help with their mental health. And you don’t have to be Catholic either.


At the front desk, Susan Lurvey is a customer service specialist and administrator; the office manager is Diane Blackwood. Lurvey greets visitors with a friendly “hello” after ushering them in through the front door.

“If someone comes in asking for help, I talk to them first,” Lurvey said. “Do you have insurance? Do you have a safe place to live? How are you doing at work? If they’re in an abusive relationship, I ask them to talk to a counselor about getting out of it. We have a resource book to find what they might need.

“If they’re homeless, they should call 211,” she said. “The process of getting help can take so long; there are mothers with children, and I found that men had a harder time going through that. It’s frustrating not being able to do more. »

What the agency does is administer therapy to help heal a person’s mind and body.

Challenges

“We offer many different therapies to our clients, from individual therapy for adults and children to group therapy,” said Sandra Lerzundy-Price, director of clinical services at the Institute for the Hispanic Family and Torrington Family Service. Center. “Our priority is our customers.”

Catholic Charities, according to its website, “is a leader in providing culturally and linguistically competent behavioral health services to adults, children, youth and families in our region. Through individual or group therapy, our clinicians are able to address issues associated with addiction, depression, anxiety, anger management, trauma, grief and loss, as well as than to other mental health problems.

The agency also has offices in Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury.

Behavioral health program supervisor Judy Balcezak and social worker Robert Erwin have seen a significant drop in the number of people seeking services.

“When we had to close it was quite dramatic,” she said. “We started working from home and we used Zoom and telehealth. Before COVID-19 we had 250-300 customers, but a lot of people don’t want to come back in person. »

Transportation to appointments has also become an issue for residents of Torrington as well as Colebrook, Goshen, New Hartford and Barkhamsted, Erwin said.

“It’s not always reliable,” he said.

The agency now serves less than 130 people.

Despite the challenges, Lerzundy-Price said the local agency runs many programs and provides services to these communities.

“Catholic Charities has operated community and residential programs, behavioral health clinics, outpatient groups and family therapy groups for many years,” she said. “We work with families with mental health needs.

“Bob (Erwin) and I also run domestic violence programs, so if someone gets arrested, they take anger management classes,” Balcezak said. “We are involved in this.”

Defense of victims of crime

The team also includes Sandra Raver, a social worker for the VOCA, or Victims of Crime Act, program. She divides her time between Torrington and Waterbury.

“In my role, I advocate for all victims of crime, as they are entitled to free clinical assistance and group therapy, and I help them obtain these services,” she said. “Anyone who is a victim of sexual or domestic violence, homicide, robbery – over the past year the cases have been mostly victims of domestic violence. As part of VOCA case management, I can help them navigate the justice system until they go to court.We keep track of their abuser and notify them of any changes in the inmate’s status once they are in jail.

Victims can also seek compensation in certain cases, she said.

“It’s an ongoing process. There are lost wages and medical bills that a victim could face,” Raver said. “If a person has been hurt, they can ask for many therapies.”

The VOCA program is something a lot of people don’t know about and therefore don’t know what kind of compensation they may be eligible for, Raver said.

“If someone is killed in someone’s home, VOCA helps with funeral expenses and provides services for any issues, like PTSD, that may arise,” she said.

To feel safe

For Raver, Balcezak and Erwin, working with people today shows the emotional and social impacts of the pandemic on a large scale.

“We did a lot on Zoom, and people got used to it, but isolation, after a while, is a comfort zone,” Raver said. “When you’re out sick for a week, going back to work seems weird, so after being away for months and months, it’s even weirder.

“We will do virtual meetings, but we really want people to come here in person,” she said. “I think some people are still very scared of the virus. Last weekend I saw more people wearing masks than I had seen in a while. »

Isolation and fear affect people with disabilities and older pensioners, she said.

“Housing is in crisis, so people are either looking for housing or staying indoors,” she said. “It’s harder to get out on a regular basis, so it’s harder for them to come back into the world.”

More programs added

As the team rebuilds its relationships with customers in the community, new programs are added. A new mental health and addictions outpatient group begins at 9:30 am on July 5, and a social skills group for teens is also offered this year.

“We are working with the state to serve more young people because it is really needed,” Balcezak said. “As always, the hardest part of making this work is transportation. We need a grant for a van.

Financially, the nonprofit agency is pretty spread out, team members said.

“Finding and creating new resources is very important to us,” Lerzundy-Price said. “We are asking for funding, subsidies, but it goes very quickly. We always welcome donations. »

For more information about the Torrington Family Service Center, 132 Grove St., Torrington, go to https://www.ccaoh.org/how-we-help/behavioral-health/ or call 860-493-1841.

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