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Ellis Medicine's 'Family Room' offers mental health services to youth ages 10 to 17

SCHENECTADY — Young people struggling with mental health challenges now have the Family Room to help them cope and get the care they need in what Ellis Medicine President and CEO Paul Milton touted as the first-of-its-kind facility in New York state. 


The space officially opened Tuesday with much fanfare and a ribbon cutting at the newly renamed Terri and Mark Little Health Center at 1023 State St., formerly the State Street Health Center. 


“The idea is to provide a service that is almost like an urgent care for mental health,” Milton said. “We will serve young people on the verge of a mental health emergency. They can simply walk in, no appointments necessary. The idea is to provide an alternative to the emergency room, have a warm welcoming place to get care. We call it the Family Room for a reason because the inviting home-like setting can play an important role in helping de-escalate a personal crisis.”


The target population is 10- to 17-year-olds and the concept, Milton said, is modeled after the health care system’s existing Living Room diversion program for adults at the emergency department.


David Sturman, chief of psychiatry at Ellis, said mental health issues among youngsters can manifest as mood, anxiety and substance abuse disorders among others.


He said 20 percent of adolescents between the age of 12 and 17 have had a major depressive episode in the last year and nearly 33 percent of adolescents experience an anxiety before adulthood, and that early intervention and access to care are key.


“The Family Room will be a warm and calming place where young people and their families can access peer counseling and work with a social worker, case manager, or connect them with any community services that they might need regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay,” he said. “It will serve as therapeutic refuge to support those youth in crisis and also lay the foundation for long term resilience and well being.”


Ashley Norcoss, clinical director of Ellis Medicine for Mental Health, said both the Living Room and Family Room are breaking down barriers such having to do with fear and finance.


Milton also gave a shoutout to the hard working employees at the center and highlighted the necessity of working collaboratively to effectively address mental health among adolescents. 


He recognized Neil Golub, who attended the ceremony, for his leadership on the capital campaign project. 


Milton also announced that the State Street health center building would be being renamed to the Terri and Mark Little Health Center for the couple’s generosity through the Little Family Foundation. 


Flanked his wife, Mark Little recounted how they have been “engaged with the youth of this area for a very long time, and we know quite personally the needs of these kids. To have a facility like this where they can come and get treated before things get too bad for them is really important.”

 

Nancy Gildersleeve, senior program officer with the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, said the Family Room is a “symbol of hope and care offering vital crisis support to youth in need.”


The foundation, which according to its website, is one of the largest in the nation and the largest focused exclusively on health care across the Empire State, donated $712,000 to make the Family Room a reality. 


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