December 2, 2023

Northwell Health reccently received a $100,000 grant from New York state to fund its Behavioral Health Center in Rockville Centre.

The facility launched in 2020 and provides mental health care to children and teens in a collaborative arrangement with nine Nassau County school districts.

While it typically takes parents eight weeks or more to arrange an appointment with a mental health provider, the center’s child psychiatrist and licensed mental health counselors deliver same-day attention to students who may be either referred by participating schools or self-referred — evaluating them, developing a treatment plan and continuing to provide care until transfer to a community provider is arranged.

The grant will enable the center to hire a dedicated care management coordinator to connect students to longer-term care and assist families in navigating community mental health resources to find the best fit for their child. The position will also free counselors at the center to see more patients.

“The pandemic has exacerbated what was already a crisis of emotional distress among children and adolescents, but a severe shortage of adolescent mental health specialists makes it difficult for parents to find timely help,” psychiatrist and the center’s Medical Director Dr. Vera Feuer said, according to a news release. “The need is overwhelming both parents and schools. The Behavioral Health Center has helped to fill that gap and now will be able to meet the needs of even more students thanks to this grant.”

The center has worked at full capacity since it opened, and Northwell opened a second Behavioral Health Center in Minneola last year. The two centers have provided urgent behavioral health care to more than 2,000 students so far.

The centers are a collaboration between Northwell’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center, in New Hyde Park, Long Island school districts and State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who helped secure the grant and saw the need for a new model of community-embedded care. Kaminsky worked with Northwell and the school districts to develop an innovative way to fund the project, with fee-for-service covering part of the costs, districts providing a portion and Northwell absorbing the rest.

Nine school districts participate in the Behavioral Health Center in Rockville Centre: East Rockaway, Freeport, Hewlett-Woodmere, Lawrence, Malverne, Oceanside, Rockville Centre, Valley Stream Central High School District and West Hempstead.

“There is a clear and pressing need to expand resources for children and teens struggling with mental health,” Kaminsky said. “The Behavioral Health Center in Rockville Centre has already played an instrumental role in providing care to hundreds of students and this grant will boost their capacity to work with even more. I am proud to have played a role in supporting that work and I applaud the staff’s dedication to providing this critical service to our communities.”

The center is part of Northwell’s ongoing effort to meet the behavioral health needs of children and teens, which includes both emergency behavioral health services and a Pediatric Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center in Cohen Children’s Medical Center. In addition, in a program launched in 2017 by Northwell’s dedicated psychiatric facility, South Oaks Hospital, a child psychiatrist regularly visits schools in districts across Long Island to provide drop-in mental health services for students.

“Children and teens are suffering, and parents and schools need help in order to provide support,” said Dr. Charles Shleien, the senior vice president and chair of pediatric services at Northwell Health and the Philip Lanzkowsky Professor of Pediatrics. “This is a priority for Northwell, and we’re grateful to New York state for making it possible for us to expand the help we can provide.”

—Mike Smollins


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