Since Katchen Coley founded The Connection in 1972, the agency has since grown to a staff of more than 400 and operates 45 programs. Her innovative vision of community based progams would not have come to fruition without the support of Dr. Edward Friedman, who died on January 30, 2019 at the age of 94.
In the early 1970s, Katchen Coley volunteered in the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Service at Connecticut Valley Hospital, which Dr. Friedman, a psychologist, directed. In working with the patients on the unit, she was alarmed by how quickly they were readmitted after what appeared to be a successful treatment episode and discharge. She soon realized that the discharging clients had no adequate housing and supports to go to, and often quickly relapsed, precipitating their return to the hospital.
Katchen Coley thought there might be a relatively straightforward answer to the problem. If she could only get a house, somewhere in Middletown, which would serve as a supportive home to former patients, she could help stop this expensive and painful revolving door. While simple, her idea was radical. In that era, there was virtually no supportive housing in the community for people with substance abuse and behavioral health needs. To bring her idea to practice, she needed a champion in the mental healthcare field.
That’s where Dr. Friedman came in. He enthusiastically endorsed Katchen Coley’s radical idea and wrote letters of support for the first grant awarded to The Connection, a $30,000 federal award to buy a dilapidated house on Washington Street in Middletown, near Wesleyan University. Dr. Friedman also agreed to be a member of the Board of Directors of the incipient organization. Without his backing (and role in making CVH a referral source), the agency would never have gotten off the ground. Many medical professionals of that era would not have subscribed to Katchen Coley’s risky and untested vision, but Dr. Friedman intuitively understood that his patients needed a home, and perhaps more important than that, a community.
Almost fifty years later, the agency is indebted to both Dr. Edward Friedman for his prescient and courageous vision and to our brave founder, Katchen Coley.
Follow this link to read Dr. Friedman’s obituary.