Town officials say they may have found a way to free up $25,000 within the Health and Human Services budget—opening up the possibility that a popular outreach program at New Canaan High School may continue as the district had hoped.
Kids in Crisis since 1999 has been operating “TeenTalk.” According to Shari Shapiro, executive director at Kids in Crisis, the critical services provided by Ed Milton—who since 2006 has been counselor for TeenTalk at the high school—have reached more than 1,100 students in those seven years alone.
According to a press release issued by First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, a portion of funds that would have gone to a vacant part-time position in Health and Human Services (senior caseworker, whose total allocation would be $35,000) could be used to restore funding that program advocates had requested for Kids in Crisis. The decision on how to move forward will fall to the Town Council, which handles budget now that it’s moved through the Board of Finance.
The finance board last week had stood firm in its decision to allocate $25,000 to the program instead of the $50,000 that advocates had asked, despite testimonials on the program’s behalf from the high school’s principal and a teacher. An online petition from a New Canaan High School alum followed, and it’s garnered more than 200 signatures. Technically, the program's funds were not allocated as part of the Health and Human Services Department budget, but rather as part of the Human Services Agencies contribution from the town.
Shapiro (whose full Letter to the Editor in support of TeenTalk can be found here) at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting spoke in favor of the program.
“We appreciate and certainly understand that these are difficult economic times,” she said.
“The program has become an integral part of the fabric of the New Canaan High School community,” she added.
According to Mallozzi, Health and Human Services Director Carol McDonald and he “outlined a path” to fund the program next fiscal year.
“Mrs. McDonald will recommend to the Town Council at Wednesday’s budget meeting that $25K from that position be used to restore funding to the Kids in Crisis program,” the press release said.
McDonald will request that the other $10,000 be added to the position of part-time human service program assistant.