NYC Community School District 1 will provide mental health services to all families in the district this fall

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New York City Community School District 1 will offer mental health services to all families in the district this fall as part of a three-month pilot expansion of College families thrive program in partnership with Wall Street Trinity Church.

Launched in 2017 with seed funding from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, University Settlement’s Family Thriving Program is a comprehensive mental health care system serving low-income families, especially those limited by plans. health care such as Medicaid. By partnering with educators, Families Thriving works with families and organizations to create a reliable and responsive community mental health care network, having served more than 500 people over a five-year period.

Pilot expansion of program will provide tiered community mental health and wellness support and wraparound services to 11 additional schools in District 1 on the Lower East Side, ranging from healing workshops to clinical referrals .

Integration-based Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) a model that equips parents with parenting strategies for self-efficacy and behavior management, Families Thriving uses this model to promote positive reinforcement and address exacerbated behaviors in children.

“We work with parents with Triple P, in terms of intergenerational work. So helping parents unpack their own parenting style and maybe how they were raised,” said Barbara DiGangi, director of Families Thriving.And then in schools, we promote the building of relationships between teachers and students. We help bring a social, emotional, trauma-informed, and behavioral healing-focused perspective into classrooms, which strengthens the connection between home and school.

In response to the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, University Settlement also launched Connection Circles, a group treatment model, as part of its Families Thriving program to promote community care and civic engagement among youth and their families. These models aim to identify and address common issues facing students, from intergenerational racism and poverty, among other traumatic stressors, to ultimately reducing involvement in the juvenile justice system and foster care. of reception.

“Families Thriving sits on our weekly attendance, academic support, and planning and placement team (PPT) meetings so they are at the table when social emotional needs arise that need to be supported or discussed” , said Community School District 1 Superintendent Carry Chan-Howard.

As such, Families Thriving’s effectiveness is aided by its close collaborations within the school district, but unlike school counselors and social workers, the program’s flexible services extend beyond skill-building workshops. and clinical referrals – as part of the continuum of the academic institution’s mental health network. .

As the expansion plan aims to provide mental health support to an additional 2,675 students, with partner organizations anticipating that 75 additional district families will benefit from clinical engagement with Families Thriving services, hundreds more will receive “light” social and emotional support and opportunities.

“We call them light social emotional touches because we become a familiar face and build relationships, in a hyperlocal way,” DiGangi said. “So our social workers and our team members are really built and integrated into the schools, which makes them more accessible, more approachable.”

Because schools will be able to outsource mental health services, the expansion will significantly reduce pressure on educators and school counselors, who are struggling with current city budget cuts. Trinity Church Wall Street’s partnership with Families Thriving offers a solution to these gaps in mental health service funding, which the nonprofit identified following a comprehensive needs assessment, which indicated a high demand for mental health services among lower Manhattan residents.

“The assessment identified a main causal loop, where family income leads to education and then to employment, which then leads to family income,” said Lorelei Atalie Vargas, community impact manager for Trinity Church Wall Street. “This generational loop can be either vicious or indirect. It can be vicarious when you have a lot of income, or it can be vicious when you don’t have much income and lack access to quality education and employment. Which ultimately leads to low income.

In order to break the vicious cycle of the causal loop, Vargas said the assessment identified mental health as a key factor determining a family’s success.

“Mental health essentially impacts every stage of this cycle,” Vargas said. “Families face the stressors of poverty on a daily basis, children experience unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression. So, coupled with barriers to accessing a range of services, this creates a challenge at every stage of the cycle,”

Therefore, the program’s relational approach to mental health care, where parents and children are treated holistically when solving problems, offers a potentially effective solution that shortens financial limitations.

“Mental health care is very relational. Unfortunately, our mental health system, especially for low-income people who rely on Medicaid, has many restrictions and barriers that are all driven by funding,” Vargas said. “At Trinity, we’re trying to figure out how to put programs in place that really take advantage of a relationship model. It’s become clear to us that Families Thriving is taking the kind of approach that’s needed right now, which makes it extremely accessible where you don’t have to come to the clinic, and it doesn’t have to happen at school.

As the program has seen a surge in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, Families Thriving has served as a role model and thought partner for city institutions such as the New York City School Health Office. , the New York State Coalition for Child Behavioral Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to help develop strategies to meet a growing national need for Mental Health.

“We spoke with the New York City Office of School Health about the Medicaid service, what it will look like, and what the service can do in schools,” DiGangi said. “This project we’re doing with Trinity Church expands on that. We also had conversations about using this model to address mental health gaps in the education system.

As integrative approaches are embedded into the familiar ecosystems of school communities, Families Thriving ultimately aims to de-stigmatize mental health issues, largely initiated by the widespread mental wellness dialogues of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“I think what I’ve seen is there’s definitely less stigma around mental health,” Vargas said. “I think it’s a combination of a greater discussion about stress and mental health, and the media that people have access to, which helps normalize mental health. I think the pandemic itself has helped move that conversation forward,”

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