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DERX Foundation Grant Helps Expand Behavioral Health Services
Posted 07/31/2020 04:06PM

DERX Foundation Grant helps expand behavioral and mental health services 

for young people at a critical time

A grant from the Robert G. and Marguerite M. Derx Foundation has enabled the Connecticut Junior Republic (CJR) to expand behavioral and mental health services for children and young people in northwest Connecticut during a time when the need for such assistance has increased significantly. Specifically awarded to help meet the growing demand for services among students attending The Gilbert School in Winsted, the Derx Foundation’s $15,000 grant has enabled CJR to increase the hours of a part time clinician seeing 40 to 50 students annually to full time. It was anticipated that the Derx Foundation’s grant would enable CJR to serve 75 students, ages 12 to 18, by the end of the summer.

“We have already exceeded the number of young people we expected to help through the program expansion made possible by the Derx Foundation,” stated Jennifer Grant, Director of CJR’s Wellness Center and Behavioral and Mental Health Services. “As of the end of June, we had worked with 76 Gilbert School students, with an additional 13 young people referred for services,” she stated.

According to Susan Sojka, Principal of The Gilbert School, the prevalence of mental health issues in adolescents is high and can pose serious barriers to their social and educational development. “Through our partnership with CJR, we have been able to provide ongoing support for our students and their families, and to provide a higher level of care,” she said, “including crisis intervention, assessment, short term and long term counseling, and support in the community.”   She noted that the collaboration allows for Gilbert students to be seen year-round, during the day and after school. “As the Principal of The Gilbert School, I have seen our students have academic success, remain in school and show improvement in their social/emotional well-being as a result of the support given by CJR staff,” said Principal Sojka. “Through the collaboration with CJR and our school faculty and staff, students of The Gilbert School have been given the appropriate services, support and resources, and lives continue to be saved and enhanced through this partnership,” she concluded.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a very high demand for behavioral health services,” reported CJR President & CEO, Daniel Rezende. “Thanks to the expertise and dedication of our staff, CJR was able to pivot very quickly to ensure continuity of care for the children, youth and families we help. Our Wellness Center and its behavioral and mental health programs were on the cutting edge of these changes,” he added. “We have been providing care through telemedicine and Zoom, and have supplemented services by adding virtual group meetings for youth enrolled in our programs as well as support groups for parents.   The students and families we serve at The Gilbert School have also had access to these services,” he said.

According to Ms. Grant, many public schools have found that it is increasingly expensive to address the behavioral health needs of students. Funding salaries and benefits to maintain staff to work with these students can be prohibitively expensive. As a result, only those students with the most severe learning disabilities and behavioral issues are seen by behavioral health professionals retained by the schools. “This is one of many reasons the CJR Wellness Center has seen a surge in interest and referrals,” she stated.

Ms. Grant noted that telemedicine has actually made many services more accessible as transportation barriers are removed and youth and families actually find it easier to make appointment schedules. “This has been an unexpected benefit of the program adaptations we made to ensure delivery of services during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

The Robert G. and Marguerite M. Derx Foundation was established in 1997 and supports 501(c) (3) organizations. The Derx Foundation seeks to improve the lives of women and children in Northwest Connecticut by funding programs in education, health and nutrition.  

Founded in 1904, the Connecticut Junior Republic (CJR) provides care, treatment, education and family support for vulnerable at-risk, special needs and troubled young people so they may become productive and fulfilled members of their homes, schools and communities.  Today, the organization’s combined programs serve approximately 1,500 boys and girls annually at 11 sites throughout Connecticut.

CJR conducts three residential programs for young men on its Litchfield campus, and provides longer term care for boys at its Group Home in Winchester and REGIONS Program in Waterbury.  Education programs are provided for boys from communities throughout Connecticut at CJR’s Cable Academic and Vocational Education Center (CAVEC), which is based on its Litchfield campus.  Education services for girls are provided at CAVEC’s Bristol campus.

A broad spectrum of prevention, early intervention, family support, substance abuse treatment, and intensive, home-based therapy and aftercare programs are provided for boys and girls through CJR’s community locations in Danbury, East Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New London, Torrington and Waterbury. Behavioral and mental health services are provided in most of these locations, as well as on CJR’s Litchfield Campus, and by special arrangement at The Gilbert School and Northwestern Regional High School in Winsted.

A private charitable organization, the Connecticut Junior Republic is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).  CJR is supported by gifts from individuals, businesses, foundations and organizations, and through service contracts funded by the Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division (JBCSSD), the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS), by Connecticut’s public schools, and through other income earned for services provided.  

For further information, please contact Hedy Barton, Director of Development and Public Relations (860) 567-9423, extension 252; or by email:


  • Connecticut Junior Republic
  • 550 Goshen Road, P.O. Box 161
  • Litchfield, CT 06759
  • (860) 567-9423

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