Teenagers with severe mental health or drug problems can avoid psychiatric emergency rooms and hospitalization under the new Nassau program, which provides services at home and at school.
The Youth Assertive Community Treatment program aims to reduce the trauma young people can experience from ER visits and stays in mental hospitals, according to the Hicksville nonprofit that runs the effort. said Jeffrey Friedman, CEO of Central Nassau Guidance & Counseling Services.
The round-the-clock program is available to people aged 10 to 21 and, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicide are becoming more prevalent in that age group. He said it’s because it’s increasing across the board.
The new approach “not only saves lives by preventing suicides and drug overdoses, but it also provides young people with the highest possible standard of care,” Friedman said.
Freedman said it will focus on young people with the most severe mental health problems and whose problems have not been resolved by visits to psychiatric emergency rooms, hospital stays or residential programs. The idea is to provide a comprehensive service.
Young people who have never been to these facilities can also qualify, he said.
Psychiatrists, licensed mental health therapists, case managers, and peer advocates work with young people and their families at home, at school, or elsewhere, including social services and criminal justice system buildings, Friedman said. I will meet you.
“It’s very traumatic to be kicked out of your home,” he said. “Making strangers question, research, and take medicine.”
He added that the shortage of beds for young people in Long Island mental hospitals means many are being sent out of state.
“Families can fall apart, especially when children are away and alone for long periods of time,” he said. “Our goal is to keep children in the community so they can be with their families.”
The program has received about $1.5 million in funding from the New York State Department of Mental Health and other public funds, he said.
Suffolk County launched the first such program in the state last April, and it has spread across New York, officials said.
At Hope for Youth, an Amityville-based nonprofit, the program has been “very well received,” said Paul Hirsch, who heads the organization’s youth ACT team.
“Kids appreciate the immediacy with which we try to solve problems,” he said.
Hirsch said the program offers an alternative for young people who have not been successful with traditional approaches. For example, a talk therapy session may take place at home rather than in an office, or it may take place while the client and therapist are walking around the mall shopping.
The Suffolk program has so far assisted 24 young people, and as it grows it will be able to assist 36 at a time.
Friedman said the Nassau program has the capacity to help 48 young people at a time.
In Nassau, families can contact Friedman’s Group at 516-822-6111 to connect. In Suffolk, the SPOA (Single Point of Contact) number for handling cases is 631-853-8513.
Mental health officials recommend that young people call 911 or take them to an emergency room if they are in immediate danger of seriously harming themselves or others or having suicidal thoughts. The new National Suicide Hotline is 988.