The Yale Child Study Center (CSC) has a distinguished history of applying scholarship and research to the clinical needs of children in New Haven and Connecticut. Famously, 25 years ago, the center launched a program that encouraged New Haven child mental health professionals and police officers to intervene on behalf of children and families exposed to severe trauma.

The initiative, called the Child Development-Community Policing Program (CD-CP), was so successful that it caught the attention of a pioneering psychiatrist, Viola W. Bernard, M.D., who tirelessly advocated for practical solutions for child well-being and health. After her death in 1998, the Viola W. Bernard Foundation gave $100,000 to help the Child Study Center continue the CD-CP.

This past spring, the Foundation made an endowed gift of $2.35 million to establish the Viola W. Bernard Fund for Innovation in Mental Health Care. The fund serves three purposes: to provide a fellowship in social justice and health care equity for mental health professional trainees; to award a prize for innovation in child mental health care delivery to a mental health professional working in partnership with a professional from another discipline; and to fund an annual lecture series addressing social justice and health care equity topics. The endowment leaves CSC better positioned both to create and research new delivery models and to improve access to mental health care for children and their families.

“Our foundation is very confident that we have found the perfect vehicle to perpetuate the mission of the Bernard Foundation and of what Viola wanted and gave 60 years of her life toward,” says board member and treasurer Cary A. Koplin, a graduate of the Yale College Class of 1966.

According to the Foundation, its namesake psychiatrist had little patience for ideas that could not be applied in real world situations. “Viola really took a multidisciplinary, multi-faceted approach to complex problems,” says Joan Wofford, M.A.T. ’59, Bernard’s niece and the Foundation’s vice president.

“She did not want to just write a check to feed children,” Koplin adds, drawing a distinction between help with temporary benefits and more lasting solutions. “She wanted to create replicable programs.”