The federal government will provide Newtown, Conn. with a $7.1 million grant for mental health services for individuals affected by the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed.
The funds, provided by the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime, will help provide long-term counseling for families, law enforcement officials, first responders, and community members who were affected by the mass shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. The money will also be used for school safety efforts.
“This grant will provide much-needed relief and support for Newtown to help this brave community heal,” Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut said in a statement announcing the grant on Tuesday. “I will continue to do all I can every day to support their efforts and to ensure that the community of Newtown has the resources it needs to fully recover and heal.”
Esty, a Democrat who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, was joined in the release by Connecticut Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.
The funds will also assist the Newtown Youth and Family Services, Resiliency Center of Newtown, United Way of Western Connecticut, Wellmore Behavioral Health, and St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.
The Associated Press first reported about the grant on Tuesday.
The DOJ’s Office for Victims of Crime provided Newtown with a separate $1.5 million grant last year. Additionally, the Newtown Public School District received $3.2 million in 2013 from the U.S. Education Department’s school emergency violence program.
The Newtown shooting sparked a national debate about gun control. It also spurred conversations about deeper changes to school security systems and the American public’s views and treatment of mental health. The Obama administration introduced a rule in November 2013 that required health providers to cover mental health and physical care equally. That move was the last of President Barack Obama’s 23 executive actions on gun violence that he proposed at the beginning of 2013 to curb gun-related incidents. Vice President Joe Biden in December promised the White House would devote $100 million to increasing access to mental health services, funding community health centers and services in rural areas.
But more initiatives have occurred on the state level than from the federal government. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed devoting more than $38 million to critical mental health services after Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds was attacked by his son last November. At least 36 states and the District of Columbia increased their funding for mental health issues in 2013 by including more school-based training to detect signs of mental illnesses, early intervention efforts, and new law enforcement procedures, according to a report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.