60 Years of Hope, Help, and Healing
In November 1957, after a great deal of time, effort and financial support from concerned citizens and groups from the communities of Meriden, Wallingford and Southington, the Community Guidance Clinic for Central Connecticut, Inc. opened its first offices on the second floor of the Clunan Building at 621/2 East Main Street.
Many local fundraising activities had been held to support the opening of the clinic, in addition to a cash grant of $9,000 from the State Department of Mental Health. The total clinic budget for the beginning year of operation was $25,000.
Until 1964, The Community Guidance Clinic was staffed by a full-time Administrative Director, George Kokiko, MSW, with part-time psychiatrists, and social workers providing direct service to children and families. In 1962, the building at 117 Lincoln Street in Meriden had been purchased with the help of courageous Board members who signed individually for the original mortgage. During 1964, a full-time Medical Director, William Gold, M.D., was hired and Herbert Gewirtz, Ph.D. was hired as full-time Chief Psychologist. The budget for that year was $60,000, supported by fundraising effort, United Way allocations and a grant from the Department of Mental Health.
In the late 1960s, John Thomas, M.D., became Medical Director. Frank Formica, Ph.D. assumed the position of part-time Administrative Director in 1965. Under Dr. Thomas’ leadership, an Outreach Program and a Substance Abuse Treatment Program were established. Community Guidance Clinics came under the auspices of the Department of Children and Families, which continues to provide grant funding today.
Expanding Services & Training
By the early 1970s, the Clinic began to expand its services. Evening hours were established to accommodate working parents. An affiliation was established with University of Connecticut School of Social Work to provide field work placements for second-year graduate students.
The decade of the 1970s saw an increased focus on the problems of child abuse and neglect, and child molestation. The result of this focus was the establishment of the Coordinated Crisis Intervention Program (CCIP) in May 1978. It was a program designed to provide clinical outreach services, to establish a Child Protection Team, a Parent Aide Program, and parenting classes and to provide community education toward the goal of increasing the safety and well-being of children and other family members who are at risk of domestic violence. Parent Aid services, now called Parenting Support Services continue to be offered to this day.
During the 1980s, the Clinic continued to grow. A training program offered field placements to psychiatric residents, and a psychology intern, Karole Kreutter, from Connecticut Valley Hospital, BSW students from St. Joseph’s College, MSW students from Southern Connecticut State University as well as from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Karole Kreutter, Ph.D. continues to serve as the agency’s consulting psychologist today. During this time, a Sexual Abuse Treatment Team was also formed.
A highlight of the 1980s occurred in 1986 with the ceremonial burning of the original mortgage at Lincoln Street. A strong effort was begun to recruit bilingual, bicultural staff to provide the Clinic’s services to Spanish speaking families, and this continues to date with all programs offering services in both English and Spanish.
Outreach to Community & Parents
During the decade of the 1990s, the Executive Director was Eugene Luchansky, MSW. Paul Horton, M.D. joined as Medical Director, and Michael Lustick, M.D. provided additional psychiatric services. An employee since 1972, Sally Tomczak, MSW, LCSW, who held various positions at the agency over the years including Psychiatric Social Worker, also became Director of Clinical Programs during this time. This decade was characterized by innovative community outreach programs for parent education and school-based services. Other new programs that were developed during this time focused on providing support to parents of children with ADHD, school readiness, violence prevention, substance abuse prevention and Psychiatric Consultation to the Meriden Public Schools.
The decade of 2000-2010 saw a transition from Eugene Luchansky, MSW to Thomas Czarkosky, LMFT as the Executive Director in 2008. Additionally, Sally Tomczak retired in 2001 after 29 years of service with the agency, and was replaced by Susan Reale as the new Director of Clinical Programs. The agency continued to grow and in 2008 purchased its current facility at 384 Pratt Street with the assistance of State bonding dollars. Responding to unmet needs in the community, the agency was contracted by Advanced Behavioral Health to provide Early Childhood Consultation Partnership services. The Care Coordination program also was formed in collaboration with community partners. During this time and through today, Renata Weissberg, M.D. has served as the agency’s Medical Director.
The current decade has seen continued adaption to the changing healthcare environment. Maria Brereton, LCSW, became Executive Director in August, 2022. Currently, all agency programs offer at least one Evidenced Based Practice model including: Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT); Attachment, Regulation and Competency (ARC); Child First; Fathers for Change; Triple P and Circle of Security. All of these programs have a demonstrated track record of providing quality outcomes to children and families.
Upgrades & New Programs
To help clients feel welcomed and comfortable, the agency updated its waiting room to accommodate more clients and renovated interior space to house additional staff for new programs such as the Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services (EMPS), and Child First. Also, a memorandum of agreement with Central Connecticut State University has allowed the outpatient clinic to train marriage and family therapy Interns and Practicum students. This year, 11 master’s level students will spend one year receiving training and serving families allowing us to continue to meet the complex needs of the children, adolescents and families we serve.
A continued focus remains on improving the organization’s infrastructure, maximizing the use of our Electronic Health Record to ensure compliance, focusing on training and providing high-quality services. As it is with all worthy causes, growing from that original $25,000 budget to today’s $3 million budget providing services to more than 2,000 children has not been a journey without challenges. However, we remain a committed, reliable community partner building on our longstanding history of serving and strengthening our community.
The agency is grateful for the support received throughout the years from the United Way of Meriden & Wallingford, United Way Southington, the Department of Children and Families, State of Connecticut, Napier Foundation, Liberty Bank Foundation, as well as numerous local businesses and individuals who have helped us provide hope, help and healing to more than 2000 children and families each year.