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Free, Confidential Mental Health Services Available through New Syracuse Community Connections-Falk College Partnership
A partnership between Syracuse Community Connections (SCC) and Falk College’s Department of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) is bringing free-of-charge, confidential mental health services to SCC/Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility. Children, teens, seniors and families accessing other services at this site can now access counseling without costly insurance co-payments or traveling to an unfamiliar location.
“Many clients wait long periods of time or are apprehensive about talking with someone skilled enough to listen and guide them through the rough waves in life. This partnership will change lives and homes,” says Merlin Merrain, M.P.H., SCC director of health services. The new services are provided by Falk graduate students supervised by American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)-approved mental health professionals. Appointments are available weekdays and evenings and can be made by calling 315.671.5817 or 315.671.5835.
Brandon Hollie G’21, a second-year Ph.D. student in marriage and family therapy, turned his research interest of decreasing violence in urban communities into action. His research, published recently by the National Council on Family Relations, examines gun violence as a symptom of past inter-generationally transmitted injustices focuses on preventing gun and gang violence in the black community. Hollie began counseling clients at the Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility this fall and is already seeing an increase in participation.
“Increased access to treatment in impoverished neighborhoods is one way to reduce violence, and strengthening the bond between individuals and families could impact prevention and intervention of gun violence,” says Hollie.
According to Tracey Reichert-Schimpff, who directs the couple and family therapy clinic in the Falk College and is a doctoral student in the marriage and family therapy program, “working at this site offers students the opportunity to develop relationships with other programs that are part of the setting. This certainly enhances knowledge and increases sensitivity to and connection with the local community.”
Collaborations led by Falk College addressing neighborhood violence and trauma date back to 2008. During a class focused on the signs of alcohol abuse, Timothy “Noble” Jennings-Bey, director of the Trauma Response Team, connected street life to addiction. That is, why do young men engage in destructive criminal, violent behavior? He shared his theory with Falk public health professors Dessa Bergen-Cico and Sandra Lane. Their ongoing collaboration has resulted in 11 journal articles, one book chapter, a video and dozens of media interviews.
In addition to Jennings-Bey, Bergen-Cico and Lane, partners now include Falk public health faculty David Larsen and Arthur Owora; Tracey Reichert Schimpff and Linda Stone Fish from Falk’s Department of Marriage and Family Therapy; Robert A. Rubinstein, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; and Robert Keefe, faculty member at the University at Buffalo. Community partners include Frank Fowler, former chief, Syracuse Police Department, and Helen Hudson, Syracuse Common Council president and founder of Mothers Against Gun Violence, among others.
Grant awards from the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York and the John Ben Snow Foundation have supported workshops to help social service professionals, educators, health care practitioners, juvenile justice workers, clergy and mental health counselors learn how to identify and address trauma.
Reichert-Schimpff notes the community collaborations have also increased the awareness and skills of students entering the mental health field. Each year, Jennings-Bey and the team from the Street Addictions Institute, along with Syracuse University faculty, educate MFT students around community violence and street addictions. Students hear directly from community members about how their lives have been impacted by policies and intergenerational injustice. Students also visit SCC to become familiar with available resources.
Other on-going trauma-informed activities in Falk College include the following:
- a training program funded by the National Science Foundation and supported through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, to prepare military veterans to conduct trauma-related research with other veterans;
- coursework and research on trauma-informed mindfulness-based programs for veterans their families and others impacted by violence;
- how veterans’ experiences of complex and morally fraught circumstances in military service in time of war affect emotional, mental and spiritual health;
- neurobiology of trauma;
- collaborative training models for interpreters and practitioners of psychotherapy;
- trauma resiliency in urban environments;
- turbulent tenancy—evictions in Syracuse;
- promoting school success among at-risk urban adolescents;
- gender-based violence and substance abuse among female adolescents;
- coursework and research in intimate partner violence in the U.S. and neighborhood violence in the U.S. and Caribbean;
- links between neuropsychological executive functions and domestic violence;
- coursework in EMDR Therapy, which relieves many types of psychological distress, and;
- courses and an academic track focused on trauma in medical settings with children.
For more information, visit falk.syr.edu.