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Brownsville Child Development Center Represents New Vision for Children’s Mental Health in New York City

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Brownsville has the highest concentration of public housing in the nation. Within one square mile, the community comprises more than 873 stories in over 100 different buildings. Reed Young

NEW YORK, NY: January 24, 2017 — The Brownsville Child Development Center, Brownsville’s first mental health clinic for children from birth to age 5, officially opens its doors this Thursday, January 26, bringing to Brooklyn a brand-new approach to working with severely at-risk children. A program of the Jewish Board for Family and Children’s Services (The Jewish Board), New York City’s largest human services organization, the Center will offer a wide range of therapeutic services for children from birth to age 5. First Lady Chirlane McCray, will be among the guests at a ribbon-cutting and celebration taking place at the Center on Thursday, January 26.

The Center is part of The Jewish Board’s ongoing effort to increase awareness and treatment of mental health issues in very young children, especially those dealing with challenging life circumstances.

The groundbreaking clinic will be complemented by a new model of service delivery which will form the basis of The Jewish Board’s early childhood work throughout New York City. The new model will see the bulk of the Center’s work done off site, out in the community, in residents’ homes and at other locations, such as child care centers, health clinics, homeless and domestic violence shelters, schools, and libraries, where there are likely to be children with emerging or unidentified emotional or psychological issues.

In another new approach, unlike traditional child development clinics the Center will focus on early childhood development as a way to engage entire families, heal the wounds of trauma, and set children on a stable and productive course for life.

As the seminal Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACEs) showed two decades ago, unaddressed childhood trauma — abuse, loss, neglect, exposure to violence — can have profound effects on children’s later-life health and well-being. Helping children and families navigate the challenges they confront in their homes and communities can make the difference between setting children on a path to productive, happy lives and losing them to trauma and its aftermath.

The Center, at 255 East 98th Street in Brownsville, fills a critical health care gap in a community where the majority of residents are struggling to survive. Poverty in Brownsville, at 37 percent, far surpasses the national average of 24 percent. The neighborhood is one of the seven of New York City’s 59 districts where children are at the greatest risk, reports the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, with child poverty at almost 44 percent compared to 31 percent nationally. Half of the families in Brownsville live in homeless shelters at any given time, and the area is the source of a third of the City’s child welfare cases.

Despite its great need, Brownsville has few mental health services for children and none that address the emotional and psychological issues of children in the critical development stage of birth to age 5. The Jewish Board, by combining its decades-long experience in early child development, trauma, and mental and behavioral health with the in-depth, grass-roots knowledge of almost 30 local child-focused Brownsville programs, is creating a community partnership that ensures that children get the help they need to survive, and thrive.

Said David Rivel, CEO of The Jewish Board: “Our goal in opening the Brownsville Child Development Center is to help young children develop the capacity to overcome profoundly adverse life experiences. By joining our experience and clinical expertise with the know-how and commitment of our community partners we can strengthen families and give a new generation of children the tools they need to succeed in life.”

Through the new model of service delivery, Jewish Board therapists will work off-site, out in the community, to deliver:

  • Mental and behavioral health assessments for children from birth to age 5;
  • Individual, family, and group counseling; and
  • Intensive treatment or referrals for children with more acute needs.

In addition, one-on-one and through workshops and training curricula at community partners’ locations, Jewish Board clinicians will help both staff and parents to understand the basics of early childhood mental health and to recognize and respond to emerging or unidentified emotional and psychological issues in young children.

The Center is just the latest program in The Jewish Board’s effort to help young children develop into healthy adults. For decades the organization has supported children from birth to age 5 through its mental health clinics, its nursery school for children with learning or developmental challenges, and its diverse array of early childhood consultation, screening, and assessment services.  These programs have allowed The Jewish Board’s clinicians to become experts in a range of therapeutic models and to form a strong network of family, provider, and community partnerships that support all aspects of a child’s life.

Funding for the Brownsville Child Development Center has been generously provided by The S & L Marx Foundation, The Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation, Help for Children, The William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation, The Irving Harris Foundation, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, and others.

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