District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, joined by Rockland County Executive Ed Day and Rockland BOCES District Superintendent Mary Jean Marsico, Ed.D., launched the Rockland County Partnership For Safe Youth, a new initiative designed to enhance the effectiveness and productivity of services for local at-risk youth and their families.
As part of the first-of-its-kind county/school collaboration, local leaders officially opened the Center for Safe and Healthy Youth, a one-stop location for needs assessment, as well as school support, mental health and social services and juvenile justice-related services, including family preservation, for struggling youngsters in Rockland County. The Center for Safe and Healthy Youth is located within the BOCES Educational Resource Center on North Midland Avenue in Nyack.
Through a collaboration between the County of Rockland and Rockland BOCES, the Center for Safe and Healthy Youth provides one-stop, integrated assessment, as well as school-based, mental health and social services to at-risk youth with multi-faceted needs between the ages of 10 and 18. Once issues are identified, an interdisciplinary team staffed by trained personnel from the County departments of Social Services, Mental Health and Probation and Rockland BOCES will work directly with the youth, the family and school district to address their unique needs.
In each case, staff from the four agencies work together to determine what support is needed. This coordinated process keeps all service providers informed and involved. Additionally, family members are engaged, allowing progress to continue when the Partnership is no longer in the picture.
“The Center for Safe and Healthy Youth is inspired by the needs of youngsters to be able to get services in one location – when they need them,” said District Attorney Zugibe. “It’s all about keeping at-risk youth out of the criminal justice system while building strengths, promoting success, safety and permanency in home, school and the community. By applying a unique integration of educational, mental health and social services towards that model, we hope to create a prototype for a new way to care for troubled youth in Rockland County.”
By offering a continuum of educational and social services, mental health care and counseling in one location, the Center for Safe and Healthy Youth aims to improve outcomes for youth. By providing students with continuity of care and the ability to address multiple issues, the Safe and Healthy Youth team prevents problems from deteriorating into more serious concerns.
The Center for Safe and Healthy Youth staff recognizes that working with the youth and their families in school, rather than in an office setting, maximizes success. As such, the wraparound program provides a diversity of services within the youth’s everyday environment.
“There is no limit to what we can achieve by working together to help our youth,” said County Executive Day. “The stakes are simply too high for anything less than complete cooperation across county departments and school districts. The impact on these young people and the community will be real and tangible. We are excited to partner with BOCES on a program that aims to steer our kids toward positive and productive opportunities.”
Said BOCES Superintendent Dr. Marsico, “This center is a dream come true for the county. BOCES is thrilled to partner with county agencies to support our youth and their families in receiving wraparound services and providing additional opportunities.”
“DSS is excited about this new and innovative way to work in an effective partnership with our caring colleagues to help Rockland’s kids, said Department of Social Services Commissioner Susan Sherwood. “The kids and families we help here have a variety of immediate and serious needs that now–for the first time–we will be able to immediately and holistically address.”
Rockland County Commissioner of Mental Health Michael Leitzes said, “A recent report by the Child Mind Institute revealed that the number of U.S. children affected by a psychiatric disorder is greater than the number of children with cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. We know that in Rockland County an estimated 20,000 children are affected by a psychiatric disorder, and we also know that these children are at risk for academic failure, substance abuse and becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. This unique project, the Center for Safe and Healthy Youth, provides an opportunity to identify these children early and offer them comprehensive services so that they can be successful at home, at school and in the community. We believe that by co-locating agency staff, we can improve communication, facilitate service delivery and greatly increase the likelihood of a bright and healthy future for Rockland’s at risk children and families.”
“As gate-keepers for the Family Court, the Probation Department works diligently with youth and families to provide support and services that reduce risk of court involvement,” said County Director of Probation Kathleen Tower-Bernstein. “Our participation in the Partnership for Safe Youth allows those families to engage with us in an age-appropriate environment which fosters positive youth development, facilitates immediate referrals to community resources and avoids the stigma of ‘system’ involvement.”
The Rockland County Partnership For Safe Youth is being operated with existing staff, under the 2015 adopted Rockland County Budget, with no additional cost to taxpayers. Office space, Internet and supplies for the Center for Safe and Healthy Youth are being graciously provided by Rockland BOCES.