Nassau County Office of Mental Health May 1 2017 newsletter

Nassau County Office of Mental Health May 1 2017 newsletter

Nassau County Office of Mental Health May 1 2017 newsletter

The American reality today is 1 in 5 children has or will have a serious mental illness. More children suffer from psychiatric illness than from autism, leukemia, diabetes and AIDS combined. Yet, the average delay between the onset of symptoms and intervention is 8 to 10 years. Nevertheless, we continue to treat illnesses above the neck differently than those below the neck.

There is great misunderstanding and fear among many who have erroneous ideas about people with mental illness. Consequently, young people suffering with mental illness walk around feeling isolated, believing that there’s something inherently wrong with them that will never change.

We must do more to identify mental health problems early and then, when indicated, provide ready access to quality community-based mental health care.

This is difficult to accomplish when resources for outpatient children’s mental health care are dwindling for middle class and working poor families. Access to care remains a daunting problem for families who hesitate to ask for help due to stigma and the shame it generates. When they finally call for help, they are often denied the timely, affordable and geographically sensitive care they need from insurers with inadequate networks of providers.

For 64 years, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center has been dedicated to offering our clients the gold standard in community-

based mental health care. The Guidance Center is headquartered in Roslyn Heights, with branch offices in Manhasset and Westbury. Our catchment area is all of Nassau County.

At the Guidance Center, where we turn no one away for inability to pay, we are receiving increasing numbers of referrals of children and youth at unprecedented rates of risk and danger, many of whom are at risk for institutional placement, the most costly form of care.

To prevent this costly alternative, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center has developed an array of intensive outpatient services to keep children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances at home and in their communities. These include office-based, home-based, and school-based mental health services that are provided by teams of qualified health professional and family advocate/professional parents working in partnership to optimize care coordination. Following are highlights of just a few of these initiatives:



In recent years, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center has been fielding a record number of calls through our triage, emergency and high risk team from the families of Hispanic teen girls in dire need of help. These first-generation Latinas were coming to the Guidance Center with severe depression, self-harming behaviors, school refusal and suicidal thoughts or attempts. Many had been victims of sexual and emotional abuse or witnesses to domestic violence.

It became clear that there was a consistent theme among these young Latinas-the overwhelming feeling that they could never merge the cultural expectations of their families with their desire to fit into life in contemporary American society. They yearned to be more like their peers, but feared that would cause tremendous pain to their parents, many of whom had immigrated to America after experiencing severe trauma in their war-torn and poverty-stricken native countries.

In response to the crisis, the Guidance Center began the Latina Girls Project, an innovative program designed to foster effective, open and healing communication among these young women and their parents.

Through a culturally sensitive and holistic approach, our staff of bilingual and bicultural counselors and social workers- many of whom are also first-generation Latinas-provides individual therapy, family therapy, and weekly group meetings for the girls and their parents.

The Latina Girls Project also includes supervised outings for the girls that are designed to help them develop self-esteem, learn responsibility, gain team-building skills, and realize that the larger world offers them many opportunities to lead successful, joyful lives.

The Latina Girls Project was profiled in an award-winning nationwide story published by the Journalism Center on Children & Families at the University of Maryland.



Young people are inundated with constant stimulation from their digital devices, with many glued in front of computer screens and video games as they struggle with feelings of loneliness and rejection. That lack of connection to the natural world negatively impacts them physically, emotionally and socially.

To address this problem, the Guidance Center has added an organic garden initiative to our weekend wilderness program. This offers a unique opportunity for at-risk adolescents and children to participate in nature activities that foster individual growth, leadership skills, self-esteem, mindfulness and improved group communication while also promoting environmental stewardship. Young people tend to our two organic garden programs located at the Guidance Center’s headquarters in Roslyn Heights and early childhood center in Manhasset, where they water, seed and weed, filling with delight as they see their hard work grow into a healthy harvest.

Through the dedication of these young people, we had a bountiful surplus that was donated to local food pantries, a fact that made the teens—and our staff who have the honor of nurturing them—extremely proud.



The statistics on teenage pregnancy paint an alarming picture: babies born to teen mothers are more likely to be premature and have low birthweights, resulting in potentially long-term cognitive and health problems. Without proper care, the teen moms are also at high risk for physical, emotional and economic woes.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our Good Beginnings for Babies program works with pregnant and parenting teens to promote healthier pregnancies, healthier babies, and happier relationships between parent and child.

In our weekly prenatal and parenting groups, teens receive education on crucial issues such as nutrition, labor and delivery, breastfeeding, newborn care and perinatal mood disorders. They also benefit from home visits by a parent educator who shares information and resources to help these young families.

May 1, 2017 Vol. 1: No. 2 Page 4

component of Good Beginnings for Babies will help prepare mothers for their most important role: to be their child’s first teacher.



What happens when parents are unable to care for their children? In many cases, the responsibility falls to their parents, many of whom face serious challenges as they strive to raise these youngsters. That’s why we created C-GRASP, the Caregivers Grandparent Respite and Support Program.

Through partnerships with a supportive team of local entities, including the Town of North Hempstead’s Project Independence, we provide the grandparents with a variety of services, including respite and peer support activities, counseling, clothing and other necessities, housing assistance, transportation and school advocacy.

Home visits are a major focal point, as we identify an increasing number of grandparent caregivers with illnesses that limit their ability to leave their homes. In partnership with Long Island Cares and Long Island Harvest, we added a food supplement component to our home visits this year, delivering fruits, vegetables and other nutritious items to each household.

The grandparents have created strong bonds among themselves and also social connections for their grandchildren, joining together for recreational activities in their homes. These dedicated caregivers continue to reach out to others faced with similar challenges, sharing their experiences, strength and hope.



A good education is the foundation of a successful life, inspiring knowledge, creativity, social bonds and an economically promising future. But for children with serious emotional difficulties, the regular school environment can be overwhelming. These kids are the most likely to drop out—and also be the targets of bullying.

The Intensive Support Program (ISP), a collaborative program developed by Nassau B.O.C.E.S and the Guidance Center, provides a therapeutic and nurturing alternative, offering intensive mental health services onsite at three schools for students ages 5-21 from all 56 Nassau County school districts. We reach more than 150 students each year.

ISP takes a team approach, as members of the Guidance Center staff work with each school’s administrators, counselors and teachers to support the students’ emotional and academic needs. ISP services include individual, group and family therapy; crisis intervention; coordination of family services; and medication management, when needed.

While the students are required to follow the same curricula as in other educational settings, the lessons are individualized to meet each student’s learning style. Through ISP, students develop the skills that are necessary for growth and success both on an academic and emotional level. We’re proud to be helping our most vulnerable children and teens achieve their full potential!


Drug and alcohol treatment and prevention services are provided for children, teenagers and their families at the Guidance Center’s Leeds Place-serving young people in Westbury.

Substance abuse services include: counseling for youth using/abusing substances; children who live in families with a parent suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction; youth who have co-occurring chemical dependency and mental health issues. Prevention services are provided to local school districts.

Andrew Malekoff, LCSW, CASAC, Executive Director

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