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Grant award helps expand in-school services


Citizen Advocates was recently awarded four $25,000 block grants for school-based mental health clinic services from the New York State Office of Mental Health. 

The awards will allow the agency’s Behavioral Health team to enhance its presence at:

  • Bloomingdale Elementary School
  • Saranac Lake Middle School / Petrova Elementary School
  • Potsdam Central High School
  • Massena’s Jefferson Elementary School

In the 2021-22 School Year, Citizen Advocates offered school-based counseling services at 22 schools across the North Country, up from 20 the previous school year and 17 the year before that.

“Being physically present in the schools allows us to build a relationship with school personnel and better wrap services around a student,” said Kaitlyn Gervais, Citizen Advocates’ Director of Behavioral Health.  “In the schools, we can also reach kids who can’t come into our clinics on a regular basis, whether due to lack of transportation or family supports.”

Among the in-school services Citizen Advocates offers are individual therapy, family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, along with referrals to medication management groups, case management and peer services, and specialties such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy at the agency’s clinics in Malone, Massena, Ogdensburg and Saranac Lake.

“We’ve had so much outreach from schools wanting these services on their campuses,” Ms. Gervais said.  “The pandemic has impacted our youth and we expect to see the effects for years to come. We can supplement and support services provided by our school partners for students who have additional behavioral health needs.”

The block grants will increase the number of students Citizen Advocates can reach at the four schools, whether through the purchase of tablets or laptops to assist with telehealth appointments, outreach within the schools to raise awareness among students and staff or hiring, onboarding and retention of new clinicians to meet the growing need.

“We’re grateful to have these relationships with school districts across Franklin and St. Lawrence counties,” Ms. Gervais said.  “It’s an honor to be a guest in their schools.”