Letter to Haskell: Use Taxpayer Money for Something Other than COVID Monument

The following letter is an open response from Wilton resident Jennifer McNamara to State Sen. Will Haskell about his call to create a memorial for Connecticut’s COVID victims. 

Dear Sen. Haskell:

Although I applaud your intention to build a memorial “to help process the catastrophes we witness and the holes they leave in our hearts,” I’d like to offer an alternative use of taxpayer dollars.

Yes, as a country and a community we have a history of building memorials and statues. Usually, though, they are done with the intention to commemorate the sacrifice of our military and first responders–those who gave their lives so the others would not succumb under the oppression of fascism, communism, terrorism or slavery. These monuments act as a reminder to all that we have to be grateful for.

As a licensed clinical social worker who is trained in two trauma-based treatment modalities, I have never seen any research or data showing that monuments “help us process catastrophes.” In actuality, the contrary might be more true, that often remembrances can be triggering, as has been my experience working with 9/11 survivors.

If I could humbly suggest that public money would be better spent providing mental health resources to the communities impacted by the pandemic and subsequent quarantine.

What I can report as a mental health clinician is that we are in a crisis. I share an office space with two colleagues and within a one week time period, the three of us hospitalized seven people–five of whom were adolescents. In speaking with other colleagues, most clinicians in private practice and psychiatric hospitals throughout the state have waiting lists. Many community behavioral health clinics are also at capacity and do not have trauma trained or certified clinicians. I know many are too aware of the fact that a significant number of highly trained clinicians in Fairfield County do not take insurance because of low reimbursement rates and endless red tape. What we need is taxpayer money to help defray the cost of quality mental health care.

In addition, the Black Lives Matter movement has deepened our awareness as a community that the socially and economically oppressed amongst us face unfair disadvantages, which include access to adequate mental health care.

The best way for everyone of all ages, races, colors and creeds to process the trauma of COVID-19 is to have access to clinicians who have been trained in trauma therapy, i.e. EMDR, IFS, EFT and Neurofeedback, just to name a few.

If there are members of our community who would like to memorialize this pandemic and honor the deceased in some way, the solicitation of private funds can be used to do that.

Please, Sen. Haskell, use public money and your efforts to foster real healing so that people can do more than remember but go on to live joyful, meaningful, and productive lives.

Sincerely yours,

Jennifer Ellis McNamara, LCSW


  1. As a fellow Clinical Social Worker and EMDR/Trauma therapist, I wholeheartedly and emphatically agree with you. We are in a state of mental health crisis and the discrepancy between the need and the services available continues to widen. The trauma of Covid is ongoing and does not appear to be relenting any time soon. While I understand the importance of memorials, I agree that public money would be far better spent on providing mental health treatment to our citizens who are suffering the tremendous impact of this ongoing trauma. Thank you Jennifer, for taking the time to write this plea and for all the work you continue to do in assisting and supporting your clients.

  2. I would strongly suggest there is also a dire need for a daily reminder to those in government that their mistakes, and failure to take adequate steps to protect the public did, and will cost lives, and cause life-long health problems for neighbors, and residents.

    Please note: having called the police department recently, an officer took it upon himself to argue the Governor’s Executive Order requiring masks worn indoors in public places was merely a “recommendation.” This is one example of many of the delay in enacting safety measures, and lack of a sense of urgency within the government.

    The public must constantly be reminded some officials had lied about scientific facts, and were dismissive about effective means to prevent a highly contagious disease from spreading further.

    The victims in our area who had their lives stolen from them, and the thousands more who were cheated out of living in good health earned the memorial, and deserve to have large numbers of the public shamed for failing to keep them safe.

    Lastly, read ‘Examples of Waste, and Pork in Connecticut State Government.’ The money should have been budgeted for social welfare. My suggestion is to continue to fight for mental health care, and for a memorial to keep in the public’s minds one of the most tragic moments in American history, which was made far worse by deliberate omissions, and failure of leadership in order to prevent it from happening ever again.


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