New Hope Manor seeking new partnerships with the community

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Fri., Nov. 9, 2012
Karin Bertero is the principal of New Hope's Summit School. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.
Karin Bertero is the principal of New Hope's Summit School. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in 10 children suffer from mental health disorders, and suicide as a symptom of mental illness is the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. In Connecticut, many children find themselves struggling with no hope in sight. That's where New Hope Manor comes in.

New Hope Manor was formed in the early 1970s by a group of nurses who recognized the need to help children struggling with substance abuse in the Manchester area. Their first location, which New Hope still maintains, is at 48 Hartford Road in Manchester, next to the Chamber of Commerce and across from the Cheney mansions.

As the need to serve the community grew, so did New Hope. While they continue to serve those struggling with substance abuse, their services also care for those with mental health or behavioral issues. Their clients are primarily between the ages of 10 and 18.

New Hope has seven group homes throughout Connecticut which offer different treatment focuses, such as substance abuse, behavioral or family assistance. Six of the homes treat girls and one home treats boys – one of two in the country to do so. All are staffed 24/7 by youth coaches, clinicians and house managers. The structure these residencies provide to struggling children is critical.

“They come from a life where there’s mental, physical or emotional abuse in the household,” said Director of Development and Marketing Faith Zeller. “Whatever that trauma is, they’re expressing it through their behavior.”

According to Zeller, oftentimes it is the parents of the child who add to or cause the child's unstable environment. “Many of the children that we take in have parents who are at the same emotional level as they are,” Zeller said. “Treating them is a huge benefit to their development and success in the future.”

Some clients are brought in by their families, others are referrals from the Department of Child and Families or other reference networks. The duration of treatment depends on the nature of their struggle and their willingness to get better. “We can have a kid here for six weeks, or 18 months or longer,” Zeller said. “It really depends on the individual.”

In addition to their residencies, New Hope runs Summit School in Manchester. “The school provides clinical day treatment for kids who really can’t function in the mainstream education system,” said Zeller. The school offers a specialized curriculum for the students, while incorporating treatment.

They also run Crossroads After School Program, an intervention/prevention program at local schools, and also offer a community clinic on Main Street in Manchester that serves people of all walks of life from many different circumstances. “It could be grievance, or loss of a job, substance abuse or any mental health challenge,” said Zeller.

New Hope Manor was once state-funded. In the wake of difficult economic times, funding has been cut. This has not deterred the organization from pursuing its mission. “We’re working tirelessly towards a self-sustaining program, because the need is great,” said Zeller.

As they continue their goal to self-sustainability, they are focusing on reintroducing themselves to the community and sharing their success stories. Their main vehicle for spreading the word is a series of tours that they are offering to the public, where individuals can glimpse the accomplishments of New Hope and even hear from the people whom they helped to save.

At a tour held at 48 Hartford Road on Thursday, Nov. 8, guests met with staff, including Cheryl Fasano, CEO and president of New Hope Manor. “Anyone who has been touched by addiction knows what a far-reaching disease it is,” Fasano said. “We want to be there when a crisis occurs.” New Hope has staff that sat with East Hartford High School students following a student stabbing, and after the drowning of a student in the high school pool. “We want to help,” Fasano said.

New Hope strives to help their children graduate from high school, and they are heightening their focus on what those children do next. This transition could mean college or the workforce, and creating a vocational program is their next major project. “Next year, we want to partner with 25 local businesses that our kids can work with,” said Fasano. They are looking for partnerships of all different levels, from simple job-shadows to internships, or even an employee coming in to speak about the company.

Karin Bertero is the principal of Summit School, and during the tour, she shared a story about one student she worked with, a girl named Lily. She grew up witnessing her father abusing her mother, and both parents abused substances. Lily struggled with substance abuse and behavior problems herself growing up. When she came to New Hope, she did not see the point in following through with her education, because she truly believed that there was no hope for her. When Bertero told Lily that she had hope for her, Lily was surprised. “You have hope for me?” she asked. They created an individualized curriculum which appealed to Lily’s love of music. Before long, Lily was motivated to graduate high school.

Mandy Birkhofer is the director of therapeutic recreation. She told guests the story of Leena, a girl she worked with who struggled with drug abuse, self-mutilation and persistent thoughts of suicide. A day came when Leena told Birkhofer that she didn't want to live anymore. That's when Birkhofer “put her to work.” Seeing a drawing in Leena's sketchpad, she asked her to paint it on a canvas. For the next two days, Leena focused on the painting and found that the thoughts she struggled with were quieter while she worked. This was one of many coping strategies Leena learned at New Hope. “As she left, I remember her looking at me and saying, 'Thank you, you saved my life,'” said Birkhofer.

Janice Gorton, director of the Crossroads program, told the story of Dan, who as a teen lived in a small, dirty apartment with a morbidly obese father and two small siblings to care for. Dan's only escape was music and abusing substances. When Gorton began working with him, he had many mental health problems, and felt hopeless because of his financial situation. Music was his only passion, and his dream was to see the band Megadeth and meet the lead singer, Dave Mustaine. Gorton and the staff encouraged Dan to continue with treatment. When Gorton learned that Mustaine would be at a nearby book-signing, she invited him. “We provided an experience for him that he probably never would have had before getting involved in New Hope,” she said. “On the way home, he said, 'I'm never going to forget this day. This was the best day of my life.'”

A young woman who had received treatment at New Hope also shared her story. She had been given up by her mother as an infant, and growing up, she abused drugs and alcohol and had to care for her father, who himself abused substances. She was abused mentally and physically in relationships. By the time she was a teen, she was sent to New Hope. “They told me it's okay to be a kid. That I don't have to be a grown-up anymore,” she said. Thanks to the care she received, she graduated high school, has a steady relationship with a caring boyfriend and wants to work at New Hope.

“There’s a myth out there that we are only a facility that treats substance abuse,” said Zeller. “But we also treat families, rebuild foundations in a household, and help individuals in the community when they think no one else is there to help them.”

Upcoming tour dates are Tuesday, Nov. 27, 5-6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6, 5:30-6:30 p.m., and Tuesday, Dec. 18, 8-9 a.m. All tours are at 48 Hartford Road in Manchester. Register with Zeller at faithz@newhopemanor.net or call 860-645-4907. Businesses interested in partnering with New Hope can contact Cheryl Fasano at 860-645-4902.


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