March 6, 2013

Legislative leaders announced Wednesday that the General Assembly plans to vote today to create a special fund to assist individuals who suffered psychological trauma as a result of their work related to the Sandy Hook tragedy.

The Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Fund will be funded through private donations and provide support to volunteer and professional workers who are suffering from mental health issues as a result of the tragedy. Traditional workers compensation does not currently cover most workers for exclusively mental injuries.

“The trauma and stress experienced by the brave workers, teachers and volunteers who responded to this tragedy and its aftermath has been life altering – unfortunately the existing help available falls short of what is needed,” said Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden). “This fund reflects the generosity, compassion and appreciation of people throughout the state and shows how Connecticut can come together as a community.”

“The creation of this fund fills a huge void in which many of those who responded first on Dec. 14 in Sandy Hook continue to find themselves,” said House Republican Leader Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk). “Just as the families of the victims will never be the same, many of the men and women first on the scene to help that day at Sandy Hook Elementary have had their lives altered. This dedicated fund is a step toward helping these good people achieve some semblance of normality, whether it is getting help returning to work or finding health care programs or other needs they may have.’’

“On that terrible day in December and in the days that followed, our first responders showed incredible dedication to their duty,” said Senate President Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-Brooklyn) “What they witnessed that day has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on their lives. This fund will help those affected receive the care they need to heal and resume their careers.”

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield), whose district includes Newtown, said, “So much of the discussion in the aftermath of Sandy Hook has focused on what to do to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again; and that’s important work. But, as a community and as a legislature, we also have an obligation to provide our neighbors – many of whom have witnessed unimaginable horror and violence – the resources they need to heal. The Sandy Hook Workers Fund is part of that effort. I’m pleased that we were able to work across party lines and partner with such an esteemed group of civic-minded Connecticut-based organizations to help launch this initiative.”

Those eligible for benefits from the fund include first responders, school employees, as well as other professionals and volunteers involved in the Sandy Hook response or investigation.

“This is simply the right thing to do. Now those suffering from mental health issues because of the tragedy at Sandy Hook can receive the help they need without causing an undue financial burden on themselves or their families,” said House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin & Southington). “Moving forward, I’m committed to looking at our state’s workers’ compensation law that treats mental illness differently than physical ailments.”

“No one should have to struggle alone with the aftermath of this tragedy,” said Senate Majority Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “This fund will provide necessary and vital financial support to the first responders, teachers and volunteers suffering with the mental health aftereffects of this terrible tragedy.”

The fund will be administered by the Office of Victim Services (OVS) within the Judicial branch, with the state Treasurer managing its assets. The Treasurer will be authorized to accept donations directly, and charitable organizations will also be able to take donations on behalf of the fund.