A Long Island youth organization has claimed to have become the first nonprofit in the country to launch a special program for young people with serious mental health issues.
Hope for young people provides substance abuse prevention, residential housing and foster care services for youth in Nassau and Suffolk counties. They said they have developed the nation’s first Assertive Community Treatment Team (ACT) for people between the ages of 10 and 21 with serious mental health issues. The program targets the mental health needs of those at risk of entering or those returning home from hospitals and residential treatment centers.
Jaclyn Marro, director of clinical services at Hope For Youth, said it was crucial that the family be involved in the process.
“When a child has been impacted by mental health, it impacts the whole family system, so we will also be supportive for siblings, parents,” Marro said. “The services we provide to parents are not just education, but help them deal with their child’s behaviors.”
ACT offers different types of therapies at the child’s and family’s home. Each child has an individualized treatment plan based on their strengths and needs.
They receive personalized therapy and skill-building psychiatry. A social worker can help defend the child if they have been accused of a crime and navigate the court system. The team can also intervene if they have problems at school.
“We go to their homes, so hopefully we don’t just meet the young people when we’re there, we also ask the families the questions,” said ACT team manager Paul Hirsch. . “We try to do family work. We try to understand how symptoms arise or have arisen through understanding a longer or family history of mental illness. So it’s not just about working with young people, it’s about working with young people and the family.
Marro said that since the launch of the ACT team, other New York counties are talking about starting their own programs.
“We were the first of the first three to go, and then several more are on the way out,” Marro said. “I know Nassau should open one, I believe in the summer or early fall, and hopefully we’ll open several more in Suffolk as well.”
The state awarded $21 million last month to 15 different agencies that have mental health services for similar programs. Hope for Youth is the first to implement a plan among approved organizations.
Suffolk Youth ACT has a treatment cap of 36 children at any one time. They are selected from the state’s referral system, which is accessed by the county’s Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services. Once the child has been chosen, the ACT team works to determine the needs of the child and their family.