Family Services of Westchester Announces New Partial Hospital Partnership with Saint Joseph’s Medical Center To Benefit Yonkers Children

Port Chester, NY (May 29, 2018)—A $50,000 grant from Westchester Community Foundation will help Family Services of Westchester (FSW) create a new “partial hospital” to provide behavioral health services to children enrolled in pre-K through second grade. The new facility, based on a partnership between FSW and Saint Joseph’s Medical Center (SJMC), is designed to treat very young children who are experiencing a behavioral crisis that can severely impair their ability to function in school, often putting them on a trajectory for academic failure. An informal partnership with the Yonkers School District will ensure that children enrolled in the program will not fall behind in educational progress during their treatment. In addition to providing behavioral health care to the children, the program will also increase access to primary health care for their families.

The innovative collaboration will repurpose existing space at SJMC to create a new partial hospital that will allow children to receive services in the community, thereby averting in-patient hospital stays. The new facility, which is expected to be operational by September 2018, is designed to help fill a gap in the delivery of health care services by creating a single setting for both behavioral and primary health care.

The new partial hospital will offer developmentally appropriate educational support, individual and group therapy, recreational therapy, and family counseling to help keep young children safe and healthy. Located at SJMC’s Family Health Center at 81 South Broadway, in southwest Yonkers, the partial hospital takes advantage of FSW’s mental health expertise and SJMC’s proficiency in delivering primary health care services to create an integrated approach that is bigger than the sum of its parts. By combining their strengths, FSW and SJMC will reduce health care costs and improve service. The new program will operate out of a 2,000 square-foot space in the lower level of  SJMC’s Family Health Center that is in the process of being converted into the stand-alone partial hospital.  The re-purposed space will feature a therapeutic playroom and state-of-the-art early childhood educational classroom.

 “We are so grateful to Westchester Community Foundation for supporting this project,” said Polly Kerrigan, FSW’s Acting President and CEO. “The grant will allow us to be up and running by September, when the school year starts, so we can intervene when children experience behavioral health issues. Often these children, many of whom have experienced trauma, are unable to regulate their emotions. They can become disruptive in the classroom or home and often end up in a crisis situation where they are sent to the hospital emergency room. Our new partial hospital offers an alternative approach that can mitigate the crisis without resorting to a costly hospital stay.”

Kerrigan explained that FSW has been using a new approach, Trauma Systems Therapy (TST), to help children who exhibit behavioral problems as a result of experiencing trauma. TST is a comprehensive, evidenced-based treatment program for children and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events and who live in environments with ongoing stress. By addressing both the individual child’s emotional needs as well as the social environment in which he or she lives, TST aims to understand a child’s symptoms in the context of his or her world and strengthen the child’s coping mechanisms by involving the family, school, and community. The approach is especially useful for children suffering from traumatic events in everyday life, such as domestic violence, community violence, poverty, and other highly stressful chronic situations.

“After observing the negative impact of trauma on the children and families with whom we work, we began to apply TST as a way to stabilize the child’s environment—including the home and school,” noted Kerrigan. “Our social workers act as advocates for the parents and the child, making referrals to community resources for the child and the family, so we can monitor the child’s behavior and help these children succeed academically, socially, and emotionally.”

TST provides effective, evidence-based services and interventions to help children and families who have experienced traumatic events, whether the event is a single exposure or chronic exposure. Examples of traumatic events include sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and witnessing domestic violence. Other sources of trauma are placement in foster care, separation from a caregiver, living amid community violence, or living in poverty. TST aims to enhance a child’s ability to regulate emotions while diminishing the ongoing stresses and threats in the child’s social environment.

Both FSW and SJMC have a long history in Yonkers. FSW is licensed by the New York State Office of Mental Health to operate a mental health clinic that receives more than 8,000 annual visits, providing patients with a broad spectrum of services to address the social, emotional, and environmental factors that can have a negative impact on family life. FSW has decades’ of experience working with young children through the Head Start, Universal Pre-Kindergarten, and pre-school special education programs it operates in White Plains.

In addition to its hospital, emergency room, and specialty services in Yonkers, SJMC operates primary care offices in multiple locations as well as special-needs housing in Westchester and New York City. It also provides comprehensive outpatient and inpatient mental health services, addiction treatment programs, and behavioral health crisis services through its services at Saint Joseph’s and its St. Vincent’s Hospital Division.  SJMC’s Outpatient Mental Health Clinic in Yonkers serves only adults; this new partnership with FSW supports the integration of primary care and behavioral health services for children and families in Yonkers.

For more information, please visit www.fsw.org or call Michelle A. Nicholas at 914.305.6836.

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Family Services of Westchester, Inc. (FSW) is a private, not-for-profit agency serving our community since 1954. Headquartered in Port Chester, FSW runs more than 50 social service and mental health programs that reach 30,000 children, teens, adults, and families a year. Programs include adoption and foster care for children; Head Start and Pre-K programs for Westchester’s youngest students; Big Brothers/Big Sisters and other mentoring programs for teens; social support for the elderly; assistance to veterans; and educational and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS. We are licensed by the New York State Office of Mental Health to provide comprehensive mental health services at seven Family Centers (Hastings-on-Hudson, Mt. Vernon, Pelham, Port Chester, Sleepy Hollow, White Plains, and Yonkers) and five school-based mental health clinics. For more information about FSW, visit www.fsw.org.

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