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New initiative proposed for local youth mental health services

Mental health services for those 18 and younger could be expanded on the North Fork.

Southold Town government liaison officer Denis Noncarrow and Carol Magee, a Family Service League clinical social worker, were at Tuesday’s Town Board work session to discuss establishing a North Fork behavioral health initiative to provide programs and tools to intervene and assist those in need, as the South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative has for the past four years.

The challenge in the region has been that mental health resources for young people are “many miles away,” Mr. Noncarrow said.

The program would cost roughly $200,000 a year, Mr. Noncarrow said. The idea is for North Fork municipalities, schools and organizations chip in to launch the initiative, as South Fork entities did, and organizers are asking the town to earmark $10,000 toward it. State Sen. Ken LaValle will also work to secure funds, Mr. Noncarrow said.

The South Fork program was a response to several teen suicides that caused “great alarm” in the community, Ms. Magee said. The Family Service League, state and local officials, private practitioners, schools and local hospitals then formed a partnership to offer students help.

When a South Fork student indicates they might hurt himself or herself at school, the league is contacted and deploys a social worker to their school to assess the situation. If the risk of harm is imminent, social workers do not need permission from parents to intervene, though they do attempt to reach them, Ms. Magee explained. Parental consent is required under any other circumstance, she said.

Before the creation of that program, at-risk students would be taken to Stony Brook University Hospital via police car, she said.

Southold Town offers training on suicide prevention to the community at no cost through the Family Service League and it’s a goal to train as many people as possible, youth bureau director Lynn Nyilas noted.

Town board member Louisa Evans pointed out that this initiative won’t help Fishers Island, which has been working to get counseling for adults and children because, given the island’s distance from New York, most services are in Connecticut and are not always covered by insurance.

Councilman William Ruland said he fully supported offering town funds for the initiative to support local youth and have a positive impact. The issues are more than “kids being kids,” he said.

Councilman Bob Ghosio asked if people are available on the North Fork to support the initiative, and Ms. Magee said the collaborative funds will help secure professionals for the Family Service League’s existing clinic in Mattituck.

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Photo: Family Service League clinical social worker Carol Magee (left) at Tuesday’s Town Board work session. She’s working to expand mental health services for local youth. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)