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Meeting the Community's Mental Health Needs 

When Heather Shapiro decided she needed to find a mental health counselor to help her through these difficult times, she began calling around to find someone suitable. The frustration she experienced certainly did not help her state of mind.

Shapiro could not find a therapist because those she contacted were either not taking new patients and/or would not accept her (or any) health insurance. She is not alone.

According to Mental Health America (MHA), nearly one in five (47 million) Americans suffered from mental illness in 2018. Of these, 57% of adults received no treatment and60% of youth with depression were left untreated. And it’s only gotten worse during COVID-19.

“As the pandemic relentlessly persists, we are seeing the highest levels of anxiety and depression reported since the pandemic hit the U.S. in March,” says Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America (MHA). 

MHA reports that the number of people looking for help with anxiety and depression has skyrocketed since the onset of the pandemic, including

More people reported frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm than ever recorded in the MHA Screening program since its launch in 2014. Since COVID-19began to spread rapidly in March, over 178,000 people reported frequent suicidal ideation.

Since April, 70% of the people “at risk” for mental health conditions are struggling most with loneliness or isolation, with African-Americans showing the highest percentage increase.  

No wonder it’s hard to find help these days from a mental health system that was already sagging. So Shapiro considers herself lucky that her sister told her about Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford (JFS), a West Hartford-based non-profit organization that provides mental health counseling, as part of its array of social safety net services.

Shapiro says she “felt taken care of and understood” from her first encounter with JFS and that “everyone’s been wonderful and my therapist has been amazing.” She credits JFS for “giving my life back.”

Katie Hanley, JFS’s CEO, is proud of the way all JFS professionals treat everyone with empathy, kindness and respect. And she is redoubling her agency’s efforts to make sure everyone knows that anyone can access the top quality care JFS provides.

“We focus on human connection and want everyone in the community to know, ‘you are not alone,’” she says. “JFS is designed to be there for people of all ages, races, religions, genders and abilities, regardless of ability to pay for services. This is even more true during the pandemic.”

While JFS serves those who can afford counseling (it accepts a wide range of insurances), it also offers a sliding scale fee structure to encourage those -- who think they cannot manage to pay for counseling and thus don’t seek help -- to contact JFS.

JFS has 12 licensed clinicians on staff, who specialize in a variety of areas from ADHD, anxiety and trauma in children to depression, bereavement and loneliness in older adults. It also offers couples counseling and post-divorce counseling, as well as services geared toward specific populations, including matters related to living with a disability and women’s issues.

JFS’ Clinical Director (not a receptionist) talks with all prospective clients so she can match them with the right therapist. A psychiatrist is also on staff.

Due to COVID-19, JFS counselors currently see patients through telehealth. This is working very well, according to Hanley. “Our clinicians are certainly busier than before the pandemic,” she says, “but we make sure to be staffed so we can treat the increasing numbers of people seeking help these days.”

In response to increased demand, JFS will be adding virtual support groups in 2021 for men, women and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to go along with the bereavement support group already in progress.

“If you are having a hard time coping right now, call us,” says Hanley. “We will do everything we can to help you find resources. “That is why we’re here.”

For more information on JFS counseling, please call (860) 236-1927 or visit its website at

Jacob Schreiber welcomes your feedback at

Our 2020 Annual Report is out! Click here for the PDF of the report.

Click here for our list of Funds as of June 30, 2020.

This is a listing of Unrestricted, Donor Advised and Designated Funds, together with their balances, that have received gifts of $5,000 or more, or have grown to that value as of June 30, 2020.

RRR Fund Grants Over $600,000

We are so grateful for donors' support of the Greater Hartford Jewish community during the pandemic. We'd like to provide an update on our Rapid Relief and Recovery Fund (RRR Fund) grant allocations for synagogues. Earlier this year, we awarded $52,000 in small grants to 16 synagogues to help them defray the cost of unanticipated High Holiday expenses due to COVID-19, such as outdoor tents and live-streaming equipment. The RRR Fund's Grants Committee has just awarded an additional $175,000 to 17 synagogues to bolster their operations and address their most pressing needs, bringing the total RRR Fund support for synagogues to $227,000. All grants were approved by the Boards of the Foundation and Federation. Click here to see a complete list of all RRR Fund grants or here for a comprehensive look at the RRR Fund.

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Read about how Dignity Grows is solving a critical need for women here in Jacob Schreiber's West Hartford News column, The J Factor.  

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