Mental Health Joins the Class as Nonprofits Open In-School Clinics

Last year, SAMHSA awarded upstate New York counties a $4 million dollar, four year grant to better serve children and youth with serious emotional disturbance. The Upstate New York System of Care (SOC) Expansion Project is a collaboration of upstate counties and state agencies whose goal is the full implementation of System of Care values and practices across all 55 counties in Upstate New York.

The article below highlights the Systems of Care initiatives in action, particularly the Westchester County SOC, which gives children access to a variety of services, but also ensures that these services are coordinated and individualized to meet a child and family’s needs.  Children’s Mental Health Services at the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health received a 6-year Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services Program for Children and Their Families grant from SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) in 1999.

For additional information about the Westchester County SOC program, please contact Michael Orth, Developmental Disabilities Services Second Deputy Commissioner, Westchester Department of Mental Health.

Mental Health Joins the Class as Nonprofits Open In-School Clinics

Mental Health ClassYonkers elementary teacher Kathleen Richmond reads the crime reports in the newspaper before heading to school.

It’s one way she prepares for the day at a school where children come to class after having seen neighbors shot, gang wars on the street and violence in their own families. Ninety percent of the time what happens on the streets comes into the schools, she said.

“Right away, within seconds, you can read on the faces of these kids that there’s something going on,” said Richmond, a fourth-grade teacher at the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. School. Children turn up with a range of problems from post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders to depression and learning disabilities.

In the past two years, nine satellite clinics have opened or expanded in schools in Yonkers, Peekskill, White Plains, Port Chester and Mount Vernon, bringing the number of school-based clinics in Westchester to 22. Last year, the first school-based clinic in Putnam opened at a Brewster Head Start, while Rockland BOCES is adding mental health services, part of a full-service community school model, to a new school in Haverstraw. At other schools in the region, nonprofits provide consultation, screening and specialized curriculum aimed at building more resilient kids, and they refer out those who need services.

“They’re recognizing they can’t do it alone,” said Grant Mitchell, commissioner of the Westchester Department of Community Mental Health.