In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, there has been much talk around the issue of gun violence and mental health. In early January, Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, met with Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun control legislation to request support for a legislative agenda that will dramatically increase access to mental health services in the United States, according to the NCBH website.
Last Thursday, she came back to her home county to tour Jawonio Tech in New Hempstead and discussed the issue of mental health locally. Rosenberg lived in New City for 27 years and moved to Piermont about five years ago.
“It’s an old problem, a new urgency,” said Ellis Barowsky, chairman of Jawonio’s board of directors. Ellis added that many programs unfortunately look for the “quick fix instead of the right fix.”
Rosenberg met with Jawonio CEO Jill Warner, senior Mental Health staff, program participants and staff. She then toured the PROS program in Jawonio’s Behavioral Health division.
In an earlier article, Patch looked at Rosenberg’s thoughts on what the focus should be post-Sandy Hook, which is communicating with the public and starting a dialogue about mental illnesses.
, who had benefitted from Jawonio and are now on the Peer Advocacy Board of Jawonio’s Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) program. The PROS “assists individuals diagnosed with a mental illness to work towards greater independence and improved quality of life in the areas of everyday living, learning, working, socializing through recovery,” according to Jawonio’s website.
Scott and Jim are looking to reach out to the community to educate the public about the facts on mental illnesses and help lift stigmas associated with mental illness and violence.
Mental Health First Aid
Rosenberg said that her organization brought an Australian program into the states called ‘Mental Health First Aid.’
“It’s something Congress has embraced and is, as well, in the president’s recommendation,” said Rosenberg. “There is additional funding for local communities to roll this out. It teaches people to have the conversation (about mental illnesses). I think that’s an important piece of it. The other piece is that we move toward a system in mental health where you can deliver services only if you if you can bill insurance and only for face-to-face visits. There are families out there that you cannot stay in touch with. There is no funding that supports that.”
Rosenberg said that even when the person who might be the patient, but may not be interested in the treatment, “we should not be abandoning the families. Often it takes going out and engaging a person many times before you can be successful.”
Mental Health First Aid has trained about 100,000 Americans in the adult version after the program was brought into the U.S. in 2009 and just rolled out the youth version.
There are schools already being piloted across the country where teachers and staff are being taught “what to look for, what are the signs, anxiety, depression, what you can do in a crisis, but even more than that, what you can do to help,” said Rosenberg. “Schools have been working very hard to create positive environments. Mental health treatments for people when it’s necessary but also upstream, talking about early identification and intervention.”
In Rockland, Jill Warner, Jawonio executive director and CEO, said that Mary Ann Walsh-Tozer, commissioner of the county’s mental health department, has been active in the community in the wake of Sandy Hook.
“They are looking at this issue in schools. It’s the beginning of pulling together the community to make sure that we have consistent support and identification mechanisms in all of the teachings,” said Warner.
Anne Ostroff, Jawonio’s supervisor of children’s psychological services, said that the county has a partnership between their mental health department and the local schools.
“We’re addressing this population, the children who are invisible, whose needs are not being met and address the needs of the community and try to identify and support, as well as obtain resources,” she said.
“Society needs to be healed and need to learn the truth about people (with mental health illnesses),” said Warner.