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Spectrum Health and Buffalo Boys & Girls Club collaborate on new service

Tue, Aug 4th 2020 04:30 pm

Spectrum Health to provide counseling to youth

Shooting hoops, homework help, making friends for life … those are all part of the typical Boys & Girls Club experiences. Youth attending the Masten Clubhouse now have access to behavioral health services through a pilot program with Spectrum Health and Human Services.

Spectrum Health, a certified community behavioral health center providing mental health, addiction and 24/7 crisis services throughout the Western New York region, launched the program with the Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo in August.

“When Shari McDonough and I first met to discuss this partnership, we had no idea how important it would be as we are going through these very challenging times” said Cindy Voelker, associate CEO of Spectrum Health. “Our experience working with kids and families and being the local designated crisis services (CARES), makes for a great match. We are very pleased to be working with the Boys & Girls Clubs.”

McDonough, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo, said, “Now more than ever, our clubs look to behavioral health as a way to support the young people in our program. They come to us for education and recreation with lives that are already scarred by trauma and depression. This partnership is another way we can help them.”

The program is funded by a grant the Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo received from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. The Masten Club House, located on Northland Avenue on Buffalo’s east side, was recently renovated and serves youth from a high-need neighborhood.

For the pilot program, Shanese Mills, clinician II, will “be part of the fabric of the club,” said Melissa Farrell, managing director of clinic operations for Spectrum Health. “She’ll begin by getting to know the youth there by integrating herself into the daily activities a few hours a week.”

A press release said, “Youth in this neighborhood may have already experienced some devastating loss, from witnessing violence or having a parent incarcerated. They may be wary of mental health care. The plan is start with workshops and activities that build trust. Mills will also meet with any child privately as needed.”

Farrell is enthusiastic about this partnership and its potential to impact the next generation: “Pulling from past experiences, they can fear bad things are always about to happen. They can lose trust in entities like counselors. Our goal is to help destigmatize mental health issues.”

Mills will work with youth from age 5 to 14, in separate age-appropriate activities.

“You’re never too young to be able to identify how you feel and learn how to express that to other people,” Mills said. “I’m excited about this. I’ll start by getting to know the kids and getting them comfortable at first. This is a brand-new program and it will be less structured than a clinic type of setting, which will be very helpful in slowly warming the kids up to the idea of mental health in general. It’s also awesome to be working in the community helping out as much as I am able to.”

Founded more than 45 years ago, Spectrum Health’s mission is to respectfully partner with adults, children and families as they recover from behavioral, emotional, mental health and/or substance abuse-related disorders, and to promote hope, empowerment and self-defined improvements in their quality of life.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo mission is to provide a safe and stable experience that assures success is within reach of all its members – that they graduate from high school with plans for their futures and that they are living healthy lifestyles. Today with a focus on academic success, career development and leadership and building healthy youth and families, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo annually serves nearly 3,000 young people who range from 5-18 years of age.

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