Westchester County Profile

County Lead

Michael Orth (mmo6@westchstergov.com)
Deputy Commissioner
Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health
112 East Post Road – 2nd Floor White Plains NY 10601
(914) 995-5225   email:

SOC Team

Michael Orth, Deputy Commissioner, Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health
Kerry Megley, Executive Director, Family Ties of Westchester

Additional System of Care leadership teams include Community Network planner, school systems coordinator, peer support, and CCSI Committee members.

Demographics

Westchester County Demographic Characteristics (US Census Bureau, 2015)

Westchester County 500 sq. miles

Total Population 976,396
   White Alone 74.1%
   Black or African American 16.2%
   American Indian or Alaska Native .9%
   Asian 5.4%
   Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander .1%
   2 or more Races 2.4%
   Hispanic or Latino 24.2%
Veterans 36,526
Foreign Born Persons 25.2%
High School Graduate or Higher 87.6%
Bachelor’s Degree or Higher 46.0%
Median Household Income $83,422
Person in Poverty 10.4%

 

Goals

  • Develop a community-based model of support for children with behavioral, social and emotional challenges, and their families
  • Include parent and youth voice and involvement at all levels
  • Establish a cross-systems structure which integrates system of care values and practices.
  • Promote emotional wellness for all children and youth

Overview

Westchester County System of Care development began with New York State Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative (CCSI) grant in 1993.  Westchester’s System of Care is based on the following guiding principles (adapted from Child and Adolescent Service System Program, developed in 1983 and added by Westchester County)

  • Families must be viewed as partners and colleagues;
  • Families are best engaged in their own communities where they live and are most comfortable, and where they have culturally relevant resources to use in the achievement of their goals;
  • Child serving systems/agencies must collaborate to create a seamless system;
  • Services must be individualized to meet the needs of each child and family;
  • Services must focus on strengths and competencies, rather than on deficiencies.
  • Services and care must be unconditional;
  • Interventions and supports must be available to “wrap services around” the child and family;
  • Services must be racially, culturally and linguistically competent and respect differences of ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation.
  • Trauma informed care approach speaks to the realities and needs of many children and families. Such an approach draws on strengths, relationships, and community supports, and fosters skills and understandings that empower children and families.
  • A balance with child safety must be maintained.  While a partnership with the family is the goal, the safety of the children must not be compromised;
  • A Supportive Organizational Culture must be provided.  Professionals themselves need to be empowered to use a family empowerment approach.  Each system-of-care organization’s staff development approach must encourage and train to the attitudes, knowledge and skills needed to support family empowerment practices.

CCSI serves as Westchester’s System of Care “planning structure” which brings together individuals and systems from public and private sectors in a cross-systems collaborative effort to improve the circumstances of children and families in Westchester County.  This multi-tiered approach is led by a county committee that including several subcommittees and a community-based structure focusing on specific areas of need and practice models to engage children and families in planning.

CCSI Advisory Committee serves as Westchester County’s primary county planning body for children and family with various human services and behavioral health needs. Committee consists of leadership in child welfare, mental health, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, juvenile justice, domestic violence, education, community services, advocacy and peer/family support.   Several CCSI subcommittee have been developed to address the themes and needs identified at CCSI Advisory Committee and Community Networks (see below Westchester Community Networks).  Current CCSI subcommittees include: Early Childhood; Youth in Transition; Trauma Planning; Youth with Co-Occurring Issues; Westchester County Community Partners Organizing Committee for Undoing Racism and Building School/Community Partnerships.

Westchester Community Network, started in 1989 in Mt Vernon community, is both a community organizing process as well as process to meet the need of children and families with complex needs.

  • The Community Network is a community organizing model, which brings together key stakeholder in a community including schools, child welfare, juvenile justice mental health, recreation, faith-based, community organizations and advocacy and peer/family support.  Networks focus on the emerging needs in a community related to youth and family well-being and in meeting the social, emotional, physical well-being of children and families.  Community Networks exist in the following locations: Bedford/Mt. Kisco, Lakeland/Yorktown, Mt Vernon, New Rochelle, Ossining/Tarrytown, Peekskill, Port Chester, White Plains/Greenburgh, Yonkers.
  • Child and Family Teams an innovative approach to working with families who need the help of a variety of service systems.  It is a “family-friendly” approach that concentrates on a family’s strengths rather than just on problems. The model is a forum which brings together all of the principal service providers in a community.  The group meets with parents, family members and others of the family’s choosing.  The goal is to jointly create a coordinated, individualized plan for each family member, utilizing all of the service resources of the community.  The plan is family driven, since a Child and Family Team meeting always focuses on what the family needs.  The Child and Family Team process includes various models including: wraparound, family-decision making and restorative practice approaches.

SAMHSA System of Care Grant 1999-2006.  In 1999, Westchester County received a six year system of care grant to improve outcomes for children with mental health needs, and their families. “Westchester Community Network” grant focus was the development of the system of care in Westchester County to better serve families with children with serious social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties.  The principles under a system of care promote an emphasis on a type and mix of services that are community-based, culturally competent, child centered and family focused.  Westchester County built its design on the success of its working relationships with families, communities, and across the different child-serving systems through Network, Family Ties and the Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative.  Westchester System of Care united efforts with other agencies and departments in the county to reduce duplication, streamline county processes, promote coordinated planning, and develop local community assets under Integrated Services Planning.

The grant application included the following approaches: supporting the work of local Children and Family Wraparound Networks through the addition of flexible funds; developing the role of parents as ombudsmen and evaluators of the system of care; developing community-based, family support resource centers through Family Ties; developing the role of peer support for older adolescents in mental health and other systems through Youth Forum; creating new and expanded respite opportunities for families in local communities and county-wide; developing a comprehensive, cross-system, wrap-around approach and services for families with children with special emotional and behavioral disturbances including sexual aggression and fire-setting; expanding the use of individualized care, wrap-around services, and clinical case management within local communities to more of the population of children and families who are involved with multiple systems and whose children remain at risk of extrusion from home, school, and community; developing a cross-system training unit for individualized care and strength-based work that promotes cultural values and supports and is made up of parents, professionals, and youth trainers; developing performance and outcome measurement tools to help manage the system of care.

Westchester’s System of Care served as a Team Learning Center for other SAMHSA awarded sites from 2000 until 2009.  Since the end of System of Care funding, Westchester has sustained its system of care structure including CCSI leadership committee, Community Network model, Parent/Peer support movement and many of the services/programs through cross-systems planning and funding.  Some examples of how System of Care principles and practices have been infused include early childhood, education system through School Wide Positive Intervention and Supports (SWPBIS), Transitional Youth services as well as creation of a Cross Systems Unit (blending of child welfare, mental health and juvenile justice services and supports)