Center, named in honor Sandy Hook school counselor, gets $226,000 grant

Trumbull’s state legislators announced Monday that the town would be awarded a $226,000 state grant for the renovation of the Mary J. Sherlach Counseling Center.

The counseling center, located in a converted single family home, has been operating continuously since the early 1970’s, but has not been upgraded in decades and is not currently in compliance with safety and disability regulations for public buildings.

The facility was renamed in early 2013 after Trumbull resident Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

Bill Sherlach, Mary’s husband, said he was grateful for the town’s push to upgrade the facility.

“I am extremely thankful for anything we can do to continue Mary’s work,” Sherlach said. “I am in strong support of Trumbull and the state taking these important steps toward increasing access to mental health services for young people who would otherwise not be able to find or afford them.”

The funds come as part of the Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP), which funds economic development, community conservation and quality of life projects for localities that are ineligible to receive Urban Action bonds. This program is administered by the Office of Policy and Management.

State Representative Dave Rutigliano (R-123), who spearheaded the legislative push for the Trumbull project, was pleased with Monday’s announcement.

“We received some very welcome news from the Governor’s office today, and I am proud to say that the Sherlach Center will be upgraded and given some much needed attention it deserves,” Rutigliano said. “We’d like to better honor Mary Sherlach by providing Trumbull’s families in need with a location that shows we take their issues seriously. The Center provides essential services for our community, so it is only right that it be brought to modern specifications.”

State Sen. Anthony Musto (D-22) also hailed the improvements.

“This grant will help transform the Sherlach Center with significant improvements to the interior and exterior,” Musto said. “These improvements will allow the Counseling Center to better provide mental health services to people in need. I can think of no better way to honor the memory of Mary Sherlach."

“The STEAP grant for this newly-renamed facility will allow for an upgrade to modern safety and handicapped access standards,” said Rep. Larry Miller (R-122). “The work done at this center is very important to the community, and naming it for Mary Sherlach reflects the level of compassion and counseling service that is available there.”

State Rep. Tony Hwang (R-134) said the grant is an important part of investment in mental health.

“We are appreciative of the continued investment in mental health and counseling even during these tough economic times,” Hwang said. “This is a critical component and gives a renewed focus to the issue while honoring Mary Sherlach’s legacy and life-long commitment to helping people.”

The $226,000 for Trumbull will go toward renovations of the interior and exterior of the Sherlach Center, including new siding and exterior paint, a new parking lot, updated plumbing and electrical systems, widened halls and doorways to comply with ADA regulations, and a new boiler and water heater. The Counseling Center is staffed by two full-time licensed marriage and family therapists, and provides Trumbull residents with an affordable way to deal with issues like child behavior problems, domestic violence and divorce issues, and individual or family psychotherapy.

Under the rules of the STEAP program, localities may receive up to $500,000 per year if their population is under 30,000, they are not designated as a distressed municipality or a public investment community, and the State Plan of Conservation Development does not show them as having an urban center. There are 143 municipalities in Connecticut that are eligible to apply for the highly competitive grants.