By Karen Cortés
Cynthia Rojas is using data to improve the lives of children and families at Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic, which provides accessible community-based mental health services and advocacy that promotes healthy and resilient lives for children and families. With its emergency mobile psychiatric services, a child and family trauma center, and a sexual abuse/ family violence treatment program, Clifford Beers sees children who have experienced life challenges that no young person should face.
The expertise of Clifford Beers clinicians was recently called upon to provide serves in Newtown as they assisted teams deployed to victims’ families homes, helped the FBI Rapid Response Unit, and provided onsite mental health services in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
As director of strategic advancement, Rojas leads both the research and development teams at Clifford Beers, collecting data pertaining to each of Clifford Beers’ programs, using that information to improve outcomes for the patients they serve, and communicating results of their efforts to the funding sources that make their work possible.
“With a degree in social research, I was taught to analyze numbers in any industry. I knew I wanted to use data to make change in the world. I saw data as a vehicle for doing that,” says Rojas.
Rojas joined Clifford Beers’ research department seven years ago after the organization received its largest-ever federal grant. “Along with that grant came a lot of data demands,” says Rojas. While Rojas and her research team were evaluating programs and studying impact to meet the grant’s requirements, it became apparent that the results of their research could also be used to articulate the agency’s impact on its clients and increase funding for the organization.
Three years ago, in an effort to close the gap between research and development, the teams were brought together in what Rojas says is a unique model in the not-for-profit world.
Rojas hopes that the tragedy in Newtown will help open a dialogue about trauma and mental illness in young people. “Seventy percent of kids report at least one traumatic experience when they come to Clifford Beers for intake. The average is three,” says Rojas. “There are institutions involved in kids’ lives for years before we get involved. We must be a society that can tolerate conversation about what happens to young people and help them heal.”
“If you asked me at 12 what I wanted to do, I would say ‘Change the world.’ At 42, that’s what I’m doing. I’m blessed to wake up every day and do what I love,” says Rojas.
Rojas holds a Master of Science in Research Methods and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Hunter College of the City University of New York.
She is a Commissioner for Counseling & Community Services for the City of East Haven, and a committee member for the Progreso Latino Fund, which promotes the educational and socio-economic well-being of Latinos in the City of New Haven and the region.
In celebration of the Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic 100th anniversary in 2013, Clifford Beers will hold a Gala at Yale Commons on April 27. In addition to a cocktail reception, dinner, and silent auction, the evening will feature actress Glenn Close, co-founder of Bring Change 2 Mind, a national anti-stigma campaign aimed at removing misconceptions about mental illness. Centennial Awards will be presented to Patrick J. Kennedy, and Brandon Staglin, who like Close, were selected because of their efforts toward ensuring fair and proper treatment for those suffering with mental illness.
By Karen Cortés