It takes a village to raise a child, and that is the mantra of Seneca County Mental Health, which is renewing its focus on raising awareness amid the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

Bob Ritter, who serves as SPOA Coordinator for Seneca County Mental Health, says there are many different services that are available. The problem is that many families do not realize they exist. Services are available in schools, at home, and in the community. Mental Health even recently launched a new website called SenecaCares.org, which serves as a resource for parents, and members of the community. 

Since Governor Andrew Cuomo gave the green light to reopen schools across the state, officials are renewing their efforts to alert residents about available services. 

“There are services where people go into the home and work with the youth and the family. There are services called care management, which is someone who works with the family, helps them identify their strengths, and what they want to accomplish with some goals to help them accomplish it,” Ritter explained, noting that every plan is ‘unique’. 

He is primarily responsible for coordinating services for youth and families leveraging a single point of entry system. That’s where the SPOA acronym comes from in his title. Ritter says that it provides a streamlined process for getting people connected. 

The County leverages a family driven wrap-around method of providing services. “So instead of having these models of service, and then you meet a youth - you try to figure out which module to plug into. You start by looking at the youth, and then look at what’s out there to wrap these services around the individual,” he explained. “So there isn’t necessarily a standard answer to the ‘what’s available’ question,” he continued. 

As an example, Ritter said that if a student is having a difficult time getting to school - some of the services available can intervene. “They will try to figure out what the reasons are for that,” he explained. “So it deals with crisis situations. They will get into the home and work with getting the child up in the morning and try to relieve whatever the anxiety is that is preventing the child from getting to school.” 

Being able to tailor plans to the individual and wrap services around the youth is pivotal for finding positive outcomes. He said there are plenty; and as they work through it’s a rewarding experience because of those unique interactions. 

“You know, it sounds trite, but everybody is different,” Ritter added. “And what works for one might not work for somebody else; and people have their own needs and strengths.” He says a big component of any success story is tapping in to those ‘strengths.’ “Ideally we use strengths to help address whatever the deficits are they’re dealing with, and so if you just have a model and try to plug people into it - you don’t know if they fit in that role or not - but if you’re making things individualized - you got a much greater chance of success.” 

Ritter says that as school begins, referral work will pick up, even though they do it year-round. And as the impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic become clearer on the mental health side - he anticipates greater need.

“There’s been evidence already that this pandemic is causing mental health related issues,” he added. “We’ve never dealt with something like this before, so it’s a matter of being alert. It’s a matter of being sensitive, and having empathy, and also being part of the systems of care. Everything happens to people and families differently, being sensitive to that is important, and will continue to be more important by the day.”

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