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Resilience Grows Here Nonprofit Assists Farmington Valley Veterans

Hartford Courant - 1/13/2020

Resilience Grows Here, an organization that provides support to veterans and military families, was born out of the Farmington Valley Health District five years ago.

Now, as its grant funding nears its end, the newly licensed nonprofit will venture out on its own to continue the work it has done in the Farmington Valley.

Justine Ginsberg, a native of Australia who moved to the United States in 2014, started Resilience Grows Here and will remain with it as president. Ginsberg is a registered nurse and is currently the community health coordinator for the Farmington Valley Health District.

As she explains it, while Ginsberg’s career has seen changes, there’s always been one common theme in her work: mental health.

“Mental health and well-being is in everything we do as human beings," Ginsberg said. "If we don’t focus on how people are living and why they feel the way they do, anything we do in terms of health programming is useless. You have to get at the root core of what is causing the problem.”

When Ginsberg applied for, and received, a $1.5 million grant from the Movember Foundation, the idea of starting what became Resilience Grows Here was intriguing because of what she said is a “disproportionately high number of veterans” in the Farmington Valley region.

A reason for that, she said, is the presence of the Connecticut Air National Guard in East Granby.

But just creating a military support program wasn’t enough, she said. They needed to find what veterans and importantly, their families, needed out of one.

“The thing that emerged time and time again, the one thing that was missing was continuity between services and veterans and their families," Ginsberg said. “There’s not a good system of one stop shopping. We also found there wasn’t enough for families. They are important. They are unsung heroes. They are the linchpins to keeping our families safe."

She also said there was an issue of veterans believing they don’t deserve or need services. That needed to change, through education and prevention.

“They all believe they don’t deserve services,” Ginsberg said. "That’s almost exclusively what veterans say. They are some of the most humble human begins on the planet. When it comes to mental health, they don’t want to use the services, and when they do, they are at a crisis point.”

What Resilience Grows Here does, she explained, is find ways to connect veterans and their families to the services they need and have earned access to. Sometimes, she said, it’s a difficult world to navigate, and veterans can easily grow frustrated by rejections. She doesn’t want to see that happen.

“It’s about how we provide an upstream series of services," Ginsberg said. "We can link veterans and their families to services that already exist and that are good and accessible and that they qualify for. With 1,000 different services, there are 1,000 different qualifying criteria. If they don’t criteria, they just throw the towel in. We can direct them to services they can actually access and help to remove that guessing game.”

They also work in the field of prevention and education, by working with schools in East Granby and four community colleges, including Tunxis Community College.

One of the things Ginsberg said they are most proud of is their suicide prevention training.

“We have trained 3,500 plus people in the last four years in suicide prevention training," Ginsberg said. “We know we have saved 46 lives. Those lives are not directly saved by myself or my team, but by people we have trained who reached back out.”

The best part, she said, is seeing the growth that comes out of their work.

“There are so many examples of young men and families that have found their way because we were able to provide support,” Ginsberg said. "Some of the work I am most proud of, they pour out their hearts, the fact that my program is a safe place to do that, every time it renders them safe. It allows them an outlet instead of being trapped with a story that they feel so frightened to tell. They are exposing a horrifying thing and they are met with compassion. It empowers them.”

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