By Rockland County Executive Ed Day
Just last week, I was honored to stand with District Attorney Thomas Zugibe and Rockland BOCES District Superintendent Mary Jean Marsico to launch the Rockland County Partnership For Safe Youth, a new initiative designed to enhance the effectiveness of services for local at-risk youth and their families.
As part of the first-of-its-kind county/school collaboration, local leaders 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 for struggling youngsters in Rockland County, ages 10 to 18. The Center is located within the BOCES Educational Resource Center on North Midland Avenue in Nyack.
At the heart of this Partnership are three county departments: Social Services, Mental Health and Probation – working seamlessly with the resources of Rockland BOCES. Once a student is referred to the Center by his or her school district, an interdisciplinary team identifies issues and sets out to work directly with the youth, the family and school district to address their unique needs. This coordinated process keeps all service providers informed and engaged. The involvement of the family allows progress to continue when the Partnership is no longer in the picture.
By providing students from across Rockland County with continuity of care and the ability to address multiple issues, the Safe and Healthy Youth team prevents minor behavioral and academic problems from deteriorating into more serious concerns. 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 youth – even before poor choices are made.
It’s no secret that Rockland County is grappling with a $138 million deficit. The Center For Safe and Healthy Youth is being operated with existing Probation, DSS and Mental Health staff under the current budget with no additional cost to taxpayers. (Office space, Internet and supplies for the Center are being graciously provided by Rockland BOCES.) Our commissioners have worked hard to consolidate duties and reorganize responsibilities to make this worthy initiative possible. Our people have stepped-up to make the project a reality without asking for a penny more. This is an example of true public service!
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. We’re no longer operating in silos, but rather working collaboratively to share information.
There is no limit to what we can achieve by working together to help our youth. 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.