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$4 million grant awarded to expand innovative program


A $4 million grant was awarded to Citizen Advocates for the expanded delivery of comprehensive services through an innovative program designed to focus on the treatment needs for individuals with serious mental health and addiction conditions.

The grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was pursued so Citizen Advocates could expand its Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) program into St. Lawrence County. 

Currently, Citizen Advocates is operating a CCHBC demonstration program through its clinic in Malone, where it delivers a full array of services to support individuals with a severe or chronic mental health and addiction diagnosis. 

“Citizen Advocates has a skilled and compassionate team of treatment professionals who not only understand but seek to resolve the serious health concerns our communities face,” said James Button, CEO of Citizen Advocates.  “When we first launched the CCBHC in 2017, this was our response to a huge gap in the system where individuals with chronic mental health and addiction conditions were falling through the cracks.”

Demonstration project

The initial two-year CCBHC demonstration project has been extended by the federal government due to the success of programs like the one operated by Citizen Advocates, and its ability to deliver critical services to an underserved population.

As one of only eight CCBHC programs launched in New York State, Citizen Advocates implemented a first-of-its-kind 24/7 Crisis and Recovery Center for the delivery of urgent care to treat mental health and addiction. 

It also launched a broad range of care coordination programs in conjunction with other healthcare organizations, public safety and veteran’s groups. 

This further led to the creation of a unique initiative – known as the InShape Program – that helps individuals with a serious behavioral health diagnosis by focusing on improving the skills needed to promote whole-health and healthy living choices. 

“Now that we have had the benefit of operating a successful CCBHC in Franklin County, this truly significant grant will allow us to build on the services we currently offer at our clinic in Massena,” said Mr. Button.  “This critical funding allows us to expand our presence in St. Lawrence County – the largest county in the state – in order to better serve a significant and unmet need for mental health and addiction services.”

Community need

According to a recent St. Lawrence County Community Health Assessment, hospitalization rates for individuals in Massena needing mental health treatment exceeded the statewide average and rates for other areas in the region.  The assessment plan also noted hospitalization for mental health treatment doubled between 2008 and 2016.

In addition to mental health, hospitalization rates for substance abuse, alcohol-related diagnoses, and opiate overdoses in Massena greatly exceeded the statewide rates and have increased dramatically over the past several years.

Through the increased access to timely mental health and addiction services at its Massena clinic, Citizen Advocates has begun to address community need.  To build on this success, the grant award will allow Citizen Advocates to convert the Massena clinic into a CCBHC provider – meaning residents there will have access to a wider range of comprehensive services needed to address the most serious mental health and addiction conditions.

Next steps

The grant will provide for building those critical components of a CCBHC, which includes hiring of Peer Specialists, individuals who have a lived experience with mental health or addiction; Targeted Case Managers to connect individuals with services beyond the clinic such as housing or job training; and Psychiatric Rehabilitation Specialists that focus on the social and independent living skills needed for those who are in recovery.

In addition, the funding will be used to establish a comprehensive array of programs and services, such as 24/7 crisis care, that are required to operate as a CCBHC.

“COVID-19 has heightened an already significant mental health and addiction crisis in our community,” said Mr. Button. “We are deeply grateful for this funding award from SAMHSA that will bolster our response and ability to deliver the essential, safety net services needed to enhance the health and wellbeing of the North Country.”