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Hochul Announces Funding for Nation’s First Community Mental Health Treatment Teams

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Gov. Kathy Hochul gives a Covid-19 briefing in September at her Manhattan office. (Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)

By Isabel Song Beer

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $21 million in funding awards to be allocated to 15 Youth Assertive Community Treatment teams to assist at-risk youth and their families who have not responded well to traditional treatment.

New York State is the first in the nation to enact such an initiative which aims to serve youth ages 10-21 and their families by providing mental health resources for young people at risk of entering inpatient or residential psychiatric centers as an alternative for treatment to remain with their families and their communities while still getting the help they need.

The Youth Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team providers are not-for-profit agencies with experience providing mental health services to those with severe mental health difficulties. Their goal is to create and oversee ACT multidisciplinary teams which include professional nurses, psychiatrists, mental health clinicians and peer advocates in order to serve young people struggling with their mental wellbeing without disrupting their lives more than is necessary.

“When at-risk young people are suffering from hardships, it is imperative that families stay together,” Governor Hochul said March 29. “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York is leading the way in developing new and innovative ways to provide behavioral healthcare to vulnerable individuals. With the help of this new program, children across the state will have the opportunity to remain with their families and receive the services they need.”

By using a team approach, Youth ACT teams aim to deliver quality intensive, highly coordinated, individualized and skilled therapeutic services to ensure that young people and their families have access to the level of care to support recovery.

They are highly responsive and available at all hours of the day all week to help families help their children overcome emotional and psychological distress.

“The Youth ACT program is specifically intended to address unique challenges faced by young people and families at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives,” Hillside President and CEO Maria Cristalli said. “It maintains an appropriate focus on families and home-based assistance, which is always the ideal. Hillside is proud to work with our colleagues, county and state partners to provide this innovative service that will deliver assistance and support where and when it’s most needed.”

Nearly $15 million in annual funding will be provided through state aid and Medicaid reimbursements as well as a $6 million in a one-time start-up federal funding will be provided through the time-limited expansion of the Community Mental Health Services (CMHS) Block grant and Federal Medical Assistance Percentage programs (FMAP).

Additional funding for these programs will come from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act.

“This critical funding will ensure that children and their families have access to vital mental health treatment and crisis response services at a time when our community has been suffering from the emotional toll of the pandemic,” said CEO of CN Guidance and Counseling Services Jeffrey Friedman. “Since the Governor has taken office, she has prioritized mental health services in the state of New York. We are grateful to Governor Hochul for her commitment to the emotional wellbeing of our community’s children–including those who are most vulnerable.”

The development and support of Youth ACT demonstrates a commitment to mental healthcare services by the NYS Office of Mental Health to increase access to services in the homes and communities of children and youth suffering from mental health issues.

“Investing in New York State’s mental health workforce is crucial to keeping youth and families healthy in communities all across the state,” said CEO of The Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services Dr. Jeffrey Brenner. “Providing intensive, coordinated services to youth and families in the communities where they live offers a flexible and powerful path to recovery.”

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

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