Guest Column: Help us answer critical questions on addressing mental health services

How do we, as a community, interact to expand local efforts addressing mental health and substance use disorders for our youth and our families? The North Fork Coalition for Behavioral Health is in its second year of existence and strives to respond to local behavioral health needs as we grapple with the complex day-to-day issues our youth and families experience.

Join us for our first Town Hall for Behavioral Health on Oct. 3, 2019, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Southold Town Recreation Center and help us answer this critical question. Be a part of the conversation that will help shape an inclusive and accepting response to behavioral health needs. The current initiative was designed in collaboration with the Riverhead, Mattituck-Cutchogue, New Suffolk, Southold, Greenport, Oysterponds and Shelter Island school districts, Family Service League, Eastern Long Island Hospital, Peconic Medical Center Northwell Health, Stony Brook University Hospital and the towns of Riverhead and Southold with support from state senators Ken LaValle and Monica Martinez, and assemblymen Fred Thiele and Anthony Palumbo.

The coalition is part of the larger efforts in our region supporting education and advocacy for behavioral health services. We must continue to create a range of structures for prevention, early intervention, diagnosis, and treatment in a compassionate, efficient and local manner. The North Fork Coalition for Behavioral Health is building a foundation so we can learn from our youth about the root causes of issues that often lead to a lifetime of battling mental health disorders and/or substance use disorders. The collaboration with schools, towns, state and county efforts working closely with the experts at Family Service League and our hospitals is making a difference.

At the town hall on Oct. 3, you will learn how we — as a community based effort — can ensure our community leaders have resources at the ready to guide families as we witness and respond to increasing anxiety, suicidal thoughts and self-harm behaviors, including substance use, in an effort to stop emotional pain in our youth. The North Fork Initiative, in partnership with Family Service League and the Long Island Addiction Resource Center, have agreed that our purpose is to articulate a sustainable vision and plan for crisis response, treatment and prevention on the North Fork from Riverhead to Orient Point.

To register, click here

We are asking local leaders and anyone working with our youth, families and individuals seeking resources to attend the North Fork Coalition for Behavioral Health town hall. The event will inform participants about local services and provide time for input and conversation on what services our community feels are needed. Participants will leave with a comprehensive list of service providers and resources. Our local legislative partners will be there to listen and learn from us.

If we stand together as a community we can destigmatize what it means to ask for help. If we stand together we can send a message to our community that behavioral health needs are the same as any physical needs we experience in life. Everyone deserves the same compassionate response. Join the effort.

Ms. Smith is chair of the North Fork Coalition for Behavioral Health and the former superintendent of the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District.

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