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United Way of NNY to host mental health forum Tuesday

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The United Way of Northern New York will help mental health service providers and clients come together this week to discuss the need for and availability of mental health services in the north country.

The forum, to be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the MacSherry Parish Center of Trinity Episcopal Church, 227 Sherman St., seeks to gather information for distribution to people who need or work for mental health services.

“It’s designed to neither criticize nor praise certain services,” said Jayn M. Graves, United Way chief professional officer. “It’s informational in general.”

She said the United Way organized the forum because mental health service discussions kept occurring during its community review process for United Way campaign funds.

“We sat down with our agencies and did six-month reviews,” Miss Graves said. “Community reviewers felt they had questions about mental health services, with not just one agency that could answer. We thought to put providers together to tell us what programs are available and what particular needs there are.”

Representatives of several agencies, including Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions, Samaritan Medical Center, Transitional Living Services of Northern New York, the Children’s Home of Jefferson County and the Jefferson County Department of Community Services, will be present.

Community Services Director Roger J. Ambrose said the forum will serve his department well, as it tries to host a couple of mental health forums throughout the year to help gather information for Jefferson County’s mental health plan for the following year.

“Our biggest concern has consistently been outpatient services and how long it takes to get into a provider,” Mr. Ambrose said. “Most people don’t worry about it until they need it. That’s kind of the nature of mental health services. It may only be once in a lifetime.”

While the focus the past few years has been mental health crisis management services, he said, the shift now is toward prevention, which is why community forums are important to help share new information and ideas.

The Department of Community Services will commission the Jefferson Community College Center for Community Studies to review community data. The survey will help with the department’s 2014 mental health plan and identify service gaps.

Meanwhile, Miss Graves said, United Way plans to compile information discussed at the forum to provide a report to its community reviewers to assist them in decision-making for funding.

“The United Way is looking for information; we are not looking for a quick fix,” she said. “There is no quick fix. We want to be able to support services having the most positive effect on families.”

Those wishing to attend the forum should register by calling the United Way at 788-5631.

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