Barry Kasdan said his background in group therapy and family therapy made him a good fit for Bridges, the mental health services organization headquartered in Milford.
Kasdan is the president and CEO of Bridges, A Community Support System, Inc., located at 949 Bridgeport Ave., Milford.
With a staff of about 160 professionals and support personnel, Bridges provides about 7,000 individuals each year with services for child psychology, mental health and substance abuse issues.
The private, nonprofit agency serves mostly Milford, Orange and West Haven, but Kasdan said it also provides services to people in Shelton, Seymour, Ansonia, Derby, Bethany and Woodbridge.
He grew up in the Bronx and received his master's degree in social work from Yeshiva University and then went to work at a Jewish Community Center in St. Louis.
"My background was in social work," he says, specifically in youth and family counseling. That enabled him to see the connections between delivery of mental health and substance abuse services for adults and children and the other factors in society that impact those persons’ lives, such as unemployment, housing and health care.
"I became interested in the systems issues for delivery of mental health services for adults and children," he recalls.
Kasdan saw how a person could not deal with his or her own problems without help from the community, and how a single community could not deal with them without regional and state assistance.
In the 1970s he returned to Connecticut to do child and family therapy work in Norwalk, where he still lives. In 1984, he joined the Milford Mental Health Clinic, as Bridges was known then.
The agency originated in 1957 as a mental health services provider, and gradually assumed a broader role, proving marriage counseling, child psychology and learning disability services. Currently, Bridges also promotes smoking cessation programs and even primary health care for its mental health clients.
Kasdan said people with mental health problems consume 40 percent of the cigarettes sold in America, which complicates their health issues.
Furthermore, Kasdan said they might have difficulty communicating with primary health care providers, so Bridges helps them with it until they are ready to assume the responsibility themselves.
Kasdan said working at Bridges has been a rewarding experience for him. He is especially gratified to see how the agency has been embraced by the community, including the local United Ways and the local and state governments.