ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – School shootings and teen suicides are often the result of mental health needs gone unmet, but a new pediatric mental health clinic partnered with Long Island school districts aims to address the crisis.
The need was highlighted in one Rockville Centre last year when two teens – an 18-year-old athlete and 15-year-old dancer – took their own lives, reports CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
“She was the most amazing person you could ever meet, she was always happy,” said Southside High School Junior Madison Gamberg.
Gamberg’s best friend was one of the victims. She’s launched a school club to help students deal with stresses that can lead to suicide.
“We want to have a friendlier environment for people to come and talk to people they haven’t talked to before,” she said.
Educators admit the mental health crisis cannot be tackled in school alone. One in five young people suffers from mental health issues, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in teens and children.
“When we send kids to an emergency room and put them in an ambulance and send them over there, 24 hours later they were sitting right back in the classroom, so we were looking for some means by which we can provide ongoing care,” said Dr. William Johnson, Rockville Centre School District superintendent.
That ongoing care is arriving in the form of the Northwell Behavioral Health Center where young people can get help navigating crises.
“Social media (is) where everybody is connected but at the same time everybody is isolated, in a world where you have substance abuse and family dissolution issues, bullying issues,” said Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling.
It’s a unique partnership between Cohen Children’s Medical Center and five school districts: Rockville Centre, Hewlett-Woodmere, Freeport, East Rokaway and Oceanside.
Sen. Todd Kaminsky says it’s just what is needed after too many funerals.
“Mental health is not talked about, it gets the short shrift in heath care all too often,” he said. “Very low reimbursement rates, few people want to join the profession, much more demand than there is supply.”
At the center, they will treat a myriad of mental health issues with same-day access, avoiding dangerous delays.
“We are able to have our child psychologist provide an evaluation and determine if there is an immediate risk,” said Dr. Vera Feuer, director of the Behavioral Health Center. “Really being embedded in the community so kids know we are here and we are here to help.”
The participating school districts will each pay $55,000 a year for exclusive access to the mental health counselors. Northwell’s goal is to ultimately partner with every school district on Long Island and create a nationwide model.