East Lyme human services department ‘a long time coming’
East Lyme ― With the creation of the Youth and Family Services Department, East Lyme will no longer be the largest town in the region without a dedicated resource for mental health, economic and social support for its residents.
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously this week to approve the ordinance that will go into effect Nov. 27 establishing the Youth, Family and Human Services Commission to oversee the department.
At a three-minute public hearing before Wednesday’s vote, Youth Service Commission member Pat Larkin described the move as “a long time coming.” But he suggested the selectman hold off on a vote until the selectmen elected in November are seated next month. He said the members next month are the ones who will be charged with setting the budget for the new department and therefore should have a say in its creation.
Candice Carlson, one of the incoming selectmen, stood up during the public hearing to say she supported the department either way.
The department is expected to cost $179,955 in the upcoming budget year, according to estimates from finance director Kevin Gervais. New expenses include a department director and two part-time therapists in addition to an existing prevention coordinator position.
First Selectman Kevin Seery said there are enough funds in the current budget to get the department up and running. Sarah Firmin, the current full-time prevention coordinator in the Parks and Recreation Department who works with youth to address mental health and substance use issues, will be promoted to director of the new department.
Seery said the move will open up state and federal grant opportunities the town cannot receive without a dedicated human services department.
Selectmen tweaked the language of the proposed ordinance to specify it applies to all families and individuals in East Lyme, as well as Salem students enrolled in the high school. Salem spends $2.9 million to send its students to East Lyme High School, according to the current budget. Firmin said the smaller town also gives East Lyme its $6,417 allocation of Local Prevention Council grant funding.
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