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$175K Secured For North Fork’s Youth Mental Health Initiative

$175K Secured For North Fork’s Youth Mental Health Initiative

“Teens 18 years old and under on the North Fork have a huge problem finding mental health care. It’s been a challenge through the years.”

By Lisa Finn, Patch Staff | Apr 4, 2018 3:40 am ET | Updated Apr 4, 2018 1:37 pm ET

SOUTHOLD, NY — With teen drug use and suicide an escalating concern on the North Fork, funding has been secured to help bolster a youth mental health initiative.

According to New York State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo and New York State Senator Ken LaValle, the newly approved New York State budget includes $350,000 in funding to provide mental health service on both the North and South Forks — with the two coalitions that have been formed to provide mental health services across the Forks each receiving $175,000 in state support.

“Throughout my tenure one of my top priorities has been working to ensure access to quality, affordable health and mental health services on the East End of Long Island,” LaValle said.

About two years ago, New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and he joined with a group of professionals from across the South Fork to work toward providing a network of available services for the community, LaValle said.

“Last year, recognizing the growing need to help schools confront mental health issues, I, along with Assemblymen Palumbo and Thiele, convened a group of North Fork school leaders, government officials from all levels, local hospitals and regional counseling services to discuss how best to develop a structure and plan to support our young people struggling with mental health disorders, anxiety, depression and addiction,” LaValle said.

LaValle said he and Palumbo “fought hard” during budget negotiations and were successful in having $175,000 in funding included for each group, including $175,000 for the North Fork, in the 2018 to 2019 budget.

“This critical funding will ensure that a plan is in place to immediately support our young people in a time of crisis, and build a local support network equipped to deliver immediate, affordable follow up services on both the South and North Forks,” LaValle said.

Palumbo, who lives in New Suffolk was thrilled with the victory. “This year we secured over $175,000 in funding for the North Fork mental health initiative which will help provide school counselors for our students.”

Palumbo said he was also encouraged to see more than 875 acres set aside by the old Shoreham nuclear power plant, preserving hundreds of acres of woodland and ensuring that all future development of the area is environmentally conscious.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell applauded the efforts to secure funding. “It’s good news all the way around. Especially the North Fork health mental health initiative which is very important to us. We are grateful for the leadership of Assemblyman Palumbo and Senator Ken LaValle for their efforts on behalf of East End residents.”

In early 2017, Southold Town announced great strides to address mental health issues close to home.

For years, teens in crisis have had to travel long distances to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment — but the time has come for a satellite office that could help provide immediate support right in Southold Town, officials said.

At a town board work session, Southold Town government liaison officer Denis Noncarrow said the goal was to set up a satellite office locally that can help in times of crisis and serve as a preventative measure, too.

“Teens 18 years old and under on the North Fork have a huge problem finding mental health care,” Noncarrow said. “It’s been a challenge through the years.”

After the South Fork was faced with tragedy and teen suicide, New York State provided funding for mental health services, Noncarrow said.

LaValle, Noncarrow said, was onboard with helping to secure similar funding for the North Fork.

Lynn Nyilas, Southold Town’s Youth Bureau Director, said when the South Fork was faced with teen suicides, Family Service League set up a satellite office with funding so parents were able to find help and support immediately without having to “jump through as many hoops.”

Having to travel to Stony Brook University Hospital in a crisis situation, where every minute counts, can be “traumatic”, Noncarrow said. A mental health clinic close to home can help provide immediate support and would be a “wonderful thing, comforting to parents”, he said.

Councilwoman Jill Doherty asked if the office would help teens navigate through issues before they reached a critical point.

Noncarrow said that was the objective; the aim, he said, is to hire another social worker to work with the Greenport, Southold and Mattituck School Districts that all can share; currently, all three districts have their own social worker, but those individuals are “bombarded” with casework, he said.

Nyilas said experts would be trained to spot signs of suicidal behavior; she received safeTALK training to detect suicidal behavior and said that training is free and can be provided by Family Service League.

Anxiety in teens is something that must be addressed, Doherty said, adding that when anxiety is not treated it can lead to drug and alcohol abuse.

Nyilas agreed and said that very issue was spotlighted at a recent seminar at Suffolk County Community College.

Eastern Long Island Hospital CEO and President Paul J. Connor has been working with the town and has facilitated a connection with Stony Brook University Hospital; the senator expressed an interest in “pushing” the initiative forward, Noncarrow said.

The time is now to bring mental health services for teens close to home, Nyilas said. “We have been historically underserved on the North Fork,” she said.

Russell agreed: “Creating a satellite office is one of the most worthwhile endeavors we can undertake on behalf of our youth.”