Schools, Northwell Partner on Student Mental Health

Northwell Health and several local school districts have partnered to offer students who need urgent mental health care an alternative to a visit to a hospital Emergency Room.

The Cohen Children’s Northwell Health Behavioral Health Center at Commack  is Northwell’s first pediatric behavioral health urgent care center in Suffolk County, providing immediate care to young people facing a mental health crisis.

Northwell said the Commack site is part of a major initiative to address the increase in mental and emotional distress experienced by that age group, worsened  by the COVID-19 pandemic. One out of five young people is suffers from mental health issues, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death for adolescents and children as young as age 10, Northwell said.

Yet a shortage of adolescent mental health specialists makes it difficult for parents to find timely help, said Vera Feuer, MD, assistant vice president, school mental health, and director of emergency psychiatry at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

“Around the country, families who need help for a child in a mental health crisis often have to wait months for an appointment with a specialist, a delay that can cause great suffering,” Feuer said. “At our behavioral health centers, we can see a child that same day to assess them, get them into immediate treatment to stabilize them and then connect them to a specialist for ongoing care.

“The goals of the visit are to provide urgent access to a child psychiatrist and the crisis counselors, provide assessment, stabilization, and provide short term crisis care,” Feuer said.

The center is located in Commack at 2171 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 345. It is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  The center’s phone number is 631-775-3280. Their email address is [email protected].

The center is prepared to evaluate and treat students who speak foreign languages, and medical intake forms are available in both English and Spanish.

Families are billed for the services through their insurance but Northwell said that those who are unable to pay will not be turned away.

Northwell said that Commack, Half Hollow Hills, Hauppauge, Sachem Central, Smithtown Central and South Huntington school districts are participating in the Suffolk County center. Students in those districts or their families can contact the center directly or be referred by a teacher, counselor or other school professional.

Northwell is also providing professional development and support to school staff, as well as community education to help promote healthy habits among children and families.

The Commack center provides  three patient rooms, and three additional rooms that will be used by Northwell Health Physician Partners Behavioral Health, a new practice that will provide ongoing behavioral health care to children, adolescents and adults. Northwell contributed $350,000 to build out the 2,000-square-foot center.

“We are excited to have engaged in this partnership with Northwell Health which will give us vital added measures in assisting our students in crisis,” said Superintendent Vito D’Elia.

“South Huntington’s partnership with Northwell Health is timely and necessary, especially as we continue our focused work on academics and social-emotional wellness. Our district is fortunate to have comprehensive pupil personnel teams at each building to intervene and respond to students with varying social, emotional, and behavioral needs; this partnership will complement and enhance our existing continuum of mental health services through a coordinated care approach,” said April Propilo, South Huntington’s assistant superintendent of student services.

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