An Intervention A Day Can Keep The E.R. Away

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This week, The New York Times introduced us to Gabriel, a second-grader in the Bronx whose classroom disruptions prompted multiple trips to the emergency room for psychiatric evaluations. His story serves to illustrate the harsh reality faced by thousands of New York City schoolchildren whose mental health conditions go untreated or receive punitive action instead of the supports they so desperately need.

The Children’s Aid Society’s Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera) has been successfully diverting boys and girls like Gabriel from the ER for nearly three decades. Today, our Mental Health teams are embedded within four New York City public schools to provide weekly group work during the school day, and full-time, year-round short-term and crisis intervention with program participants and their families, as needed.

Far too many of the young people we serve live in neighborhoods with appalling rates of poverty, violence, and untreated physical and mental health conditions – all formidable barriers to learning. In response, CAS-Carrera Mental Health teams work closely with educators to provide targeted interventions and supports, recognizing that persistent and gentle engagement is crucial, especially when a young person seems not to care. We are in it for the long haul, starting with students in the fifth or sixth grade and sticking with them until they finish high school and beyond.

The good news? The CAS-Carrera program works: For the 1,309 students served during the 2010-2011 school year alone, our mental health staff completed nearly 2,000 mental health assessments; 89 were connected to suicidal ideation, and none resulted in an ER visit or outside referral.

Considering the national average cost for each ER visit is $1,500, in one year we saved NYC taxpayers $133,500 and provided families the access to services that every New Yorker is legally entitled to. More importantly, we have equipped young people with the tools to avoid risky behaviors and embrace the vision of healthy and productive life.

When one considers that youth with mental illness have the highest school dropout rate of any disability group, creating a safe, nurturing and therapeutic environment at school is an effective strategy to ensure our young people get their diplomas. If you’d like to make a powerful investment in the future of our city and young people, please donate to CAS-Carrera  here.