Journal Inquirer

Sept. 22, 2016

MANCHESTER — A clinical psychologist who formerly worked at the Community Child Guidance Clinic has criticized the agency’s handling of significant program cuts.
Mary Mercado, a clinical psychologist at the clinic for three years, resigned Monday out of concern over how the cuts and layoffs were carried out, she said.
Mercado said staff members were escorted from the facility at 317 N. Main St. on the day of their termination, and clients weren’t told that programs had ended.
“I think this is a shame for the community and the school, given the likelihood that services will be disrupted,” she said.
In August, the clinic announced staff reductions of 11 percent and reduced programming due to funding pressures.
“With all of CCGC’s revenue sources under pressure, these actions were necessary to responsibly stabilize our finances and put CCGC on a realistic path for success in the future,” Jamie Bellenoit, who became the clinic’s executive director in July, said at the time.
Bellenoit on Wednesday declined to comment on Mercado’s claims.
In June, retiring Executive Director Clifford Johnson said CCGC had more than 100 employees, over 20 programs, and had a budget of roughly $5 million.
Founded in 1958, the child and family mental health clinic serves 14 towns: Andover, Bolton, Columbia, Coventry, East Hartford, Ellington, Glastonbury, Hebron, Manchester, Marlborought, South Windsor, Stafford, Tolland, and Vernon.
On Wednesday, Mercado told the Journal Inquirer that staff reductions included a medical director of 23 years, a director of psychological and developmental services of 11 years, a 22-year early childhood coordinator, and a quality assurance coordinator of 32 years.
Other layoffs involved a coordinator for autism services of seven years, and three social workers with tenures of five, six, and 16 years.
The clinic eliminated a juvenile arsonist program called Fire Hawk, the Birth to Five Early Intervention, and adolescent substance-abuse programs, she said.
With a lack of clinicians, Mercado estimated over 100 families would be affected by the cuts.
“Children and families in the community are the ones who will suffer the most due to these significant changes,” Mercado said. “This abrupt termination triggers the very challenges that bring these children and families into treatment in the first place, such as abandonment, trust issues, loss, and negative self image.”
On Monday, Aug. 22, employees were notified of their termination and were escorted out, she said. Management relayed various reasons for termination including financial concerns and eliminating unessential positions, she said.
Bellenoit told Mercado all clients were formally notified. However, while conversing with families last week, Mercado said many were surprised and upset when informed of the staff and program reductions.
One terminated employee saw her client in the waiting room while being escorted from the facility, she said.
“Given the amount of layoffs, there are likely still many clients in need of services,” she said. “Unfortunately, many clients lack the resources to advocate for themselves.”
Mercado said she recently spoke to Johnson, who said the clinic’s budget last year had a surplus and was balanced as of June 30.
In 1999, the clinic underwent lesser reductions, though proper notice was relayed to employees and clients, she said.