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ACR Health receives $123,449 grant for youth services

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ACR Health recently was awarded its first state grant that supports its youth services programs.

The $123,449 grant from the state Department of Health will help fund programs and initiatives for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in ACR’s nine-county coverage area, which includes Cayuga, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties. While a majority of that money will go toward the cost of running the agency’s youth center in Syracuse, some money will be utilized in the north country to support youths who feel they have nowhere else to turn, according to Executive Director Michael E. Crinnin.

“A lot of kids who come to us are struggling with their sexual and gender identities,” he said. “No one was dealing with those issues with kids. We were responding to a need.”

Mr. Crinnin said the money, which will be released this fall, will help fund a youth worker in the north country. That money comes at a perfect time, he said, considering the agency lost a $6,100 grant from the United Way of Northern New York.

While the agency receives many calls from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, Mr. Crinnin said, ACR cannot afford the staff to follow up with prompt return phone calls.

He said ACR may receive the same grant award amount for the next four years.

The state grant money also will help with the organization of the local Teen AIDS Task Force program that has been in existence for more than 20 years to help educate teenagers about sexual health.

“Kids in the north country are left to flounder with no support,” Mr. Crinnin said. “Many youth don’t want to tell their parents they’re transgendered. They need a refuge.”

ACR serves as that resource connection, he said.

Spokeswoman Jean Kessner said ACR hopes to expand youth programs throughout the north country.

About $275,000 is raised from three AIDS awareness walks in ACR’s coverage area, one of which is held in Watertown each October, that supports youth programs. Ms. Kessner said youth services “consumes almost all of our fundraising.”

“To acknowledge youth people need education is a wonderful thing,” she said.

For more information, contact ACR at 785-8222.

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