On September 20, 2022 at 10:00 AM the Directors of the two Long Island Crisis Centers discussed both the myths and facts around the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Approximately 60 people attended this free, virtual program. Here is a copy of the brochure.
Click here to learn more about the Lifeline and what this change will mean
Lindenhurst nonprofit gets $1.5M federal grant to aid anti-drug efforts in Babylon Town
By Keldy Ortiz NEWSDAY SUFFOLK Updated September 3, 2020
From left, bottom: Valerie St. Bernard, of the Deer Park Drug Prevention Coalition, Sharon Fattoruso,of Copiague Community Cares; and Lori Novello, of Lindy Cares, on Wednesday. The youth board of directors of Lindy Cares: Alyssa Rose, 16; Patrick Lopez, 17; and Angelina Mavros, 16, are in the back row. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost A Lindenhurst-based nonprofit is creating a support network with community coalitions aimed at drug and alcohol education and prevention for Babylon Town residents. The Lindenhurst Community Cares Coalition, known as Lindy Cares, will implement the Town of Babylon Cares Collaborative Project — Babylon Cares — to help stop substance abuse among youths and adults.
Lori Novello, executive director for Lindy Cares, said students and local officials participated in a video shot Monday to discuss substance abuse, using the Babylon train station as a backdrop. She said the video would be streaming online in a month in conjunction with the launch of an interactive website that provides resources for health and social services.
“This grant seeks to connect our communities, which is why we have the Long Island Rail Road theme because we ’re all connected in some ways,” Novello said. “ We ’re connected by our railroad and we ’re connected by the people and caring.” The video will be part of a campaign for the Babylon Cares project, which started after Lindy Cares received a $1.5 million Partnership for Success grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nikola Segoloni, project director for the grant, said the initiative will be funded at $300,000 over the next five years in hopes of finding a sustainable partnership afterward within the town. Novello said the video will be a launchpad for Babylon Cares, as she will collaborate with other town coalitions such as the Deer Park Drug Prevention Coalition and Copiague Community Cares, all of which provide addiction prevention resources. Lori Novello, Executive Director of Lindy Cares, left. Valreie St. Bernard, founder and President of the Deer Park Drug Prevention Coalition, center, and Sharon Fattoruso, founder of Copiague Community Cares, in Lindenhurst on Wednesday. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost
Valerie St. Bernard, who started the coalition in Deer Park, said all three groups can help one another and the town.
“ Everybody in their own coalition has something to bring to the table, whether it ’s a job or personal experience,” St. Bernard said. “I don ’t know everything. Now there ’ s resources.” Babylon Cares will also partner with the Babylon Town Beacon Family Wellness Center in North Babylon, and youth centers in the community. In a statement, LIRR president Phil Eng, who appears in the video with Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer, said he provided the train station to partner with the community. “ We believe in the youth of Long Island, and their futures, and we ’ re proud to help spread this message of unity and support that we all have for our younger generations,” Eng said.
Schaffer said he sees the Babylon Cares project as a countywide model for combining community coalitions and town resources to help youths and adults.
Patrick Lopez, 17, youth board president for Lindy Cares and a rising senior at Lindenhurst High School, said the Babylon Cares project is important for him because he wants his peers in other districts to seek help when it comes to drugs. “ Some kids are embarrassed,” he said. “ We ’ re always trying to partner with other schools to make youth coalitions. We try to provide them with the facts so they can make an educated decision.”
Crisis Center Director Discusses Mental Health Resources The www.covidmentalhealthsupport.org page contains a filterable database of resources for help with a number of mental health issues. (Photo source: Screenshot)
It’s no secret the coronavirus crisis has thrust mental health struggles into a national spotlight as people everywhere are beset by the problems this pandemic has created. But no image has proven as resonant as the sight of a man who climbed to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge last week with the intent to jump.
Police managed to bring the man down safely, but that nameless individual is far from the only one who has contemplated taking the supreme sacrifice.
“People are so desperate,” Heather Lehrman, a Glen Cove business owner who is one of hundreds who have spent months waiting on unemployment payments, said. “I’m in a bad enough place of my own, but people are wanting to commit suicide at this point. Everyone’s getting the runaround and no one’s getting a dime.”
Statistics on confirmed suicides since the state shutdown began are still in flux, but preliminary data suggests most of those thoughts have remained just that. But Meryl Cassidy, director for Long Island’s branch of the Suicide Prevention Hotline, said the area’s crisis center has been inundated with people seeking help since the pandemic began.
“We are very busy on the crisis hotline,” Cassidy, who also serves as co-chair of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Long Island, said. “We also do a lot of online chat, so we’ve seen a big increase in that. And that makes sense, because if you’re sheltering in place you want privacy. If you’re on chat and someone walks in, you can just turn your screen away.”
In February, Cassidy stated the center received around 700 calls, not unusual for any given month. In March, that number jumped to more than 1,100. This April, that number nearly hit 1,300.
Suicidal thoughts have been fairly common among the calls the crisis center has received in recent months, but Cassidy’s team deals with people reaching out for substance abuse problems, domestic abuse issues and general feelings of loneliness and despair among other things. The stress, close-quarter confinement and money problems coronavirus has brought along in its wake, she said, all contribute to situations Long Islanders and people around the nation need help with.
“If you’re already struggling with anxiety or depression or in a difficult relationships or living paycheck to paycheck before this happened and then this stupid pandemic happens, it’s certainly going to exacerbate whatever your vulnerabilities were,” Cassidy said. “Social isolation and loneliness were already very big contributors to feelings of suicide.”
The crisis center recently finished training an additional 25 counselors to help them handle the increased numbers of people reaching out to them, which has helped them move forward during the pandemic without any disruptions in service. From start to finish, it takes around 10 weeks to train somebody to adapt to their system.
“You can’t just pick up the phone and start talking to people in crisis, you need a lot of training,” Cassidy said. “You need to know not only just active listening and counseling skills, you need to know a lot about how to assess suicide risk, how to keep people safe, how to assess violence and all the different mental health issues people struggle with. You need to know all the different resources out there for people and how to get people to those resources.”
Ironically enough, since the job can be done remotely, in some cases Cassidy said working remotely has actually increased the counselors’ availability.
“In some situations, we’re actually staffed up better,” Cassidy said. “That’s been a little bit of a silver lining.”
While the center has been trying to increase its ability to handle web-based chat services as well as traditional phone calls, being able to counsel effectively online requires some skills that a phone counselor doesn’t need.
“We do a lot of training on how not to sound like a robot,” Cassidy said. “Being able to connect with someone through chat can be challenging at first, and the chats tend to take a bit longer. But in some ways it’s easier because you’re right there and you can see it unfolding. You can be providing the guidance in real time.”
Rather than simply speaking with somebody in crisis the one time they call, the center’s team works on following up with callers to check in on their well-being and refer them to the resources they need to be helped. It’s easy for anybody to bombard a person in crisis with a wall of numbers and email addresses, but Cassidy said the advantage of contacting a crisis center is in having all of that data processed through people with experience.
Anybody looking for help can contact the Response Crisis Center’s hotline at 631-751-7500 or visit www.responsecrisiscenter.org to peruse their resources online, all free of charge. Furthermore, Cassidy recommended people visit www.covidmentalhealthsupport.org
for a comprehensive database of free resources to help anybody struggling with mental health issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.