Stonington creates new position to assist first responders, provides social and mental health services

New London

STONINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — In May, Stonington launched a campaign to help people know when they should be calling 211 or 911 and now it has hired someone who will go out with first responders when they get calls that may require both types of services.

“Could be an accident. It could be a youth or an elder call,” said Deanna Rushlow the town’s new community outreach specialist. “Anything like that within a family that might have a police call that initiates it but that needs a social services call in the follow-up phase.”

She is the first person hired for that new position.

RELATED: Stonington launches ‘211/911 Which/When’ campaign to help people in crisis

“Sometimes in a crisis rather than just handing a card to someone and saying this might be helpful later on having that person right there in the moment might be much more helpful,” said Rushlow.

Today is her first day on the job and her boss the Human Services Director says she is needed.

“Just from last year from July first to date we’ve received over then thousand contacts for social services and mental health,” said Leanne Theodore, Stonington Human Services Director.

“During COVID it became even more apparent that the need exists,” said Rushlow.

She will be going to people’s homes, meeting them where they are, and making sure they get the mental health, counseling, substance abuse, or other social services they need.

“So it’s good that it’s your neighbor here actually working with you and looking into that and being part of that aspect and that outreach there,” said Stonington resident Charles Ryan. 

Rushlow held a similar position in town back between 1997 and 2005 but it was based right across the street at the Police Department. That position though as a Domestic Violence Program Coordinator was grant-funded and temporary.”

Before the funding and the position ended, Rushlow’s role grew.

“They realized that it really needed to be broadened beyond just the domestic violence calls,” said Rushlow.

Resident Sam Ryan knows people in the community now who could use some outreach like this.

“They just need a helping hand,” said Ryan. “Someone that could help them and facilitate that would be really useful.”

It’s a role to which Rushlow is happy to return. 

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