Patrice McGrath cover sheet:
Interviewee:Patrice DeMarco McGrath
Place of interview:Salisbury family Services office
Date:June 18, 2015
Summary of talk:Purpose of Salisbury Family Services and how they help local people with problems.
Patrice De Marco McGrath Interview:
This is file 97. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Patrice McGrath who the director of Salisbury Family Services. She is going to tell about the organization, her career path to the organization, and some of the federal, state and local programs that she administers. Today’s date is June 18, 2015. Here we go with the genealogical information first.
JM: What is your name?
PMcG: Patrice De Marco McGrath
JM: When were you born?
PMcG: July 11, 1957
PMcG: New Rochelle, New York
JM: Your parents’ names, please?
PMcG: Maureen and Howard De Marco
JM: Do you have siblings?
PMcG: I do, I have two brothers, Thomas and Peter.
JM: What is your educational background after high school?
PMcG: I have a BA in International Relations from Stone Hill College, North Easton, Mass.
JM: Now I want you to tell me please how you got from that degree to Falls Village to Salisbury, your career path.
PMcG: I came out of college and I got a job as a legislative assistance for an assemblyman in New York State. The part of the job that I liked the very best was the constituent piece. After I had my first child I left. After a number of years we moved to Falls Village. When my daughter was ready to go to kindergarten, there just happened to be an opening in the town of Falls Village for the Town social Worker/ Municipal Agent. I thought it might be interesting because of the fact that the constituent work was my favorite part of the work for the assembly. So I applied and got the job. I was there for ten years or so. I worked in Canaan for a year or two. Eventually I left and became the Director of Salisbury family Services and the social worker for the town of Salisbury. (2001Ed.)
JM: Who was the director before you took the job?
PMcG: In Salisbury it was briefly Debbie Carroll and prior to that for 26 years was Barbara Tobias.
JM: When I was here before, and I asked about social work and you said no, we are a referral agency. What do you mean by a referral agency?
PMcG: Well we are not strictly a referral agency. We are not no-no-no social service office; we are a social service agency. But in addition to the social services piece that we have we also do a lot of referrals to state and federal agencies so that people can make apply for these programs and benefit from them financially so that they might be able to free up other funds to address their other needs. If a person is eligible for a federal program that might put more money into their social security check, we want to make sure that they apply for that program and get it.
JM: About how many clients do you have per month?
PMcG: I would say on an average 40 to 50.
JM: Do you have a Board of Directors?
PMcG: We do have a Board of Directors.
JM: How many are on the board?
PMcG: There are eleven on the board right now.
JM: How do you get funded?
PMcG: we have various avenues of funding. It is all based on the generosity of the people in the town. We do an annual fund raiser. We do a bi-annual event celebrating Salisbury’s own. This September we will be having one. We also receive funds from the Bauer Fund that was left. The earnings from the fund go to recreation and social services in the town of Salisbury. They are meant to be used strictly for operating expenses. About once a year we request funds from the Bauer Fund.
JM: Who is the President of the Board of Directors, presently?
PMcG: We have co-presidents; we have Kim Fiertz and Helen Scoville.
JM: You mentioned the Bauer Fund. Could you tell me a little bit about the Bissell Fund?
PMcG: The Bissell Fund is a medical charity in the town of Salisbury that was set up in honor of Dr. William Bissell who was one of those old fashioned doctors that would go to your home and take care of you whether you could pay him or not. (See tape #49 A Mary Barnett and Betty Haas house #17 discussion) The Bissell Fund is for the residents of the town of Salisbury and it is to be used for medical related expenses for people who are uninsured or under insured, uninsured happening less frequently now as a result of the Affordable Care Act. But still there are certain needs, particularly dentistry. There are a lot of things that are not covered; hearing aids, eye glasses, and dental visits. That is really where the Bissell Fund comes in very handy; we also have people who are on it every month for their co-pays for their prescriptions or for their uncovered prescriptions.
JM: How about the McChesney Fund?
PMcG: The McChesney Fund is a fund that helps people with down payments or renovations. They have to be residents of Salisbury or they have to have worked in the town of Salisbury for a minimum of 3 years. It takes the form of a second mortgage and it is an interest free load. There is a McChesney board that has final approval on all McChesney requests.
JM: I know you have several children related programs. What do you do about school supplies?
PMcG: We did in the past have a program where we would give children gift cards for school supplies. Now there are a number of other agencies in the area that do that so we focus our back to school program on clothing, boots, coats whatever they might need. We provide a gift certificate for $100.
JM: There is a scholarship for camp for the summer time.
PMcG: Yes there is.
JM: How many scholarships do you give?
PMcG: It varies from year to years. I would say generally between 30 and 40.
JM: What camp or are there a variety?
PMcG: We have a relationship, a particular relationship with Camp Sloane (See file #44 John Hedbavny) and Camp High Rock which are both YMCA camps in the area. Any camp we send kids to; sports camps, music camps, arts camps, theatre camps. We have sent them to enrichment programs. As long as it is a real camp and that is where the child wants to go, if it fits in with our criteria in terms of what we are willing to pay, they can go wherever they want.
JM: So it is based on pay rather than length of stay or type of camp?
PMcG: No we will send them for two weeks; they can go to either residential camp or day camp or they can mix it up one week at one camp and another week at another.
JM: You mentioned something about wish List for Christmas gifts? This is something that the private schools sort of undertake? Could you talk about that?
PMcG: We work with Indian Mountain School and Hotchkiss School with our Christmas program. We do have wish lists. Parents fill them out and the request card is them sent over to the IMS. They =make a poster and put little sticky notes and they children take what they would like to purchase and bring it back. Also Hotchkiss collects toys and gift cards; additionally Salisbury Central School does a program where they purchase books, keeping in mind the ages and the sex of the children. So they buy books that are specific to the ages that they might like.
JM: Some of the adult programs: what do you do about people in need of food?
PMcG: The very first thing we do is to determine whether or not they are eligible for SNAP which is what used to be called food stamps. Obviously we get a food stamp application off right away. We have food pantries her next my office. We recommend that they go to local food pantry which is the former OWLS Kitchen. We also have food vouchers here.
JM: How about if they need fuel?
PMcG: If they need fuel there are lots of places we can go for fuel. There is the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program. I take the application for the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program and send it to a community action agency where they certify it and then the people call them when they need a fuel delivery. When that has expired or prior to when the program begins or after the program ends, we have a local Town of Salisbury and Salisbury Family Services fuel bank. There is also a regional fuel bank the Northwest Corner fuel Bank. There is also Operation fuel which is the program where you see on your electric bill Add a dollar for Operation Fuel. There are lots of places to go for fuel for people. We just have to get them in here to apply.
JM: That is true. How about medical needs other than using the Bissell Fund?
PMcG: Generally most medical needs are met through the use of the Bissell Fund, but there are times when there may be a very immediate need. Somebody needs something right away. We can address medical needs through Salisbury Family Services. Additionally there is a fund at the Berkshire Taconic Foundation which is called the Blue Horizon Fund which is for medical assistance.
JM: Do they specify whether it is dental, or physical or mental or is it just anything?
PMcG: No, it can be for medical supplies or for mental health, dental issues; anything that is medically related.
JM: How about transportation? This is a hard area to get around.
PMcG: Transportation is just notoriously difficult thing to address in this rural area. We have so many miles between stops for everything around here. We have a small transportation program here where people can use up to $150 a month with the Lakeville Livery. There is a Rural Transit which is located in Torrington. There is Dial-a-Ride at Geer. We don’t really have anything where there are volunteer drivers to take people around.
JM: Rotary doesn’t do that anymore does it?
PMcG: Not that I know of. Chore Service is a great resource for that. As long as the client has their own car, the chore worker can drive them. They just can’t drive in their own car. It is a very affordable way to get around. You pay on a sliding scale.
JM: You have covered a lot of area; are there any gaps of care? We talked about this before and it came up that you thought maybe the mental health was an issue that should be addressed.
PMcG: In terms of us being able to help people financially with mental health, and people having coverage through Medicare and Medicaid or their own insurance. That’s not the issues; the issue is more of a geographic one. In the past we had the Community Mental Health Association here. People think of it as the Housatonic Mental Health Center for Family Services and Mental Health. We also had here which was sort of a satellite office of Prime Time House in Torrington, called Compass Center. Those both have gone. While we have been fortunate enough that there have been therapists, some from the Community Mental Health Association who have opened offices here and do take Medicaid or Husky as it is called. We still are missing that sort of group component. The mental Health Center had a job training and referral service. I think really there’s a big gap there. People need to travel a great distance to Torrington in order to receive some of these services
JM: What haven’t I covered?
PMcG: I don’t know. I think you have been very thorough.
JM: I thank you very much for your time and all of your information. I am sure I will be in touch because some of the names I am sure I am not going to spell right.
PMcG: That’s OK!
JM: Thank you so much.
Property of the Oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068