Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced last week that Ulster County is allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding and Opioid Settlement funding to bolster mental health supports in schools at a time of critical need. A resolution to fund the program was unanimously passed by the Ulster County Legislature on June 21.
The program will supplement mental health supports provided in the county’s nine district schools and will act as a link between school, community and family. The program was designed in partnership with local school districts to promote overall wellness, offset the effects of trauma and bolster existing mental health resources in the schools. The Mental Health in Schools program will begin in the 2022-23 school year and work with middle school aged youth.
“We know that no one has been more impacted than our young people during the pandemic, and it will take all of us working together to ensure that they once again thrive,” Ryan said. “As County Executive, I have made reinvesting in mental health care a top priority, and I’m proud that these funds are being directed to provide support to our youth with whatever they may be struggling with, whether they are having a difficult time socially, having conflicts with their peers, having behavioral or academic issues, wrestling with substance use, or dealing with family concerns.”
“There’s a critical age where, if we can catch mental health issues and give appropriate care, we can really change lives,” Legislator Peter Criswell, Chair of the American Rescue Plan Act Special Committee, said. “I’m proud of the work our Committee has done to make the most of our ARPA funds, and I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for unanimously approving funding for a program which will serve underserved and vulnerable populations in our community.”
“As Deputy Chair of the Health, Human Services and Housing Committee, I am proud that Ulster County is putting forward an initiative that supports households and communities impacted by COVID by providing greater mental health supports for our youth,” Legislator Craig Lopez said. “This is exactly how ARPA and Opioid Settlement funding should be used.”
“The past two years have taken a toll on all of us, perhaps no group more than the almost 24,000 students who attend school everyday in Ulster County and their families,” Charles Khoury, District Superintendent & Chief Executive Officer, Ulster BOCES, said. “The pandemic has shaken the somewhat predictable nature of our pre-pandemic lives and our sense of security. There has been a significant uptick in the number of students and families who need mental health, social and emotional support. The Ulster County Mental Health in Schools initiative will serve to assist the already overburdened school based student support staff.”
Ulster County will contract with a nonprofit to operate teams of one Licensed Master/Clinical Social Worker or Licensed Mental Health Counselor and one Care Manager to support youth, families, and schools. Teams will provide face-to-face sessions with the youth, family support sessions with the youth and their parent/caregiver, ongoing communication with school staff, linkage to community resources, and coordination with other providers including but not limited to mental health, juvenile justice, social services, primary care, etc. The program will be voluntary, and youth and parents/caregivers must provide consent to participate.
Earlier this year in his third State of the County address, Ryan announced that his administration is beginning the re-investments in mental health services that were proposed in the 2022 Executive Budget: re-establishing a fully-functioning Mental Health Department, and becoming one of the first counties in the state to build a Crisis Stabilization Center.
In April 2022, Ryan appointed a Commissioner of the re-established Ulster County Mental Health Department. Additionally, he signed a resolution to purchase a site for the Crisis Stabilization Center.