GLOVERSVILLE - After nearly 20 years of helping families and children with mental health illnesses in the local community, the Family Counseling Center will stop its Turning Point program at the end of the year due to state-wide budget cuts.
"We all encourage the people we know and love to get help for cancer, heart disease and broken bones," Executive Director of the Family Counseling Center Michael Countryman said in a letter sent to The Leader-Herald. "Yet when it comes to mental health, we don't want to talk about it and we definitely don't want to spend the money it takes for treatment and research advances."
Countryman said mental health programs have been underfunded for years and seem to always be the target for budget cuts on local, state and national levels.
He said New York state has been "gutting" the mental health portion of the healthcare system for several years. It finally came to a point where the center can no longer operate the Turning Point program, Countryman said.
Turning Point is licensed by the Office of Mental Health and is a 12-month program designed for children younger than 18 with a mental health diagnosis - such as a bipolar disorder or schizophrenia - that have parents who have trouble or are unable to care for them at home.
The program helps the children understand how to combat their illness and provides the parents with the necessary skills to help them cope with their child's illness, Countryman said.
"Much like the way a parent of a child who is diagnosed with diabetes or any other illness needs help with parenting for that unexpected special need," Countryman said. "This is designed to come alongside and help the parents and children continue on and live productive lives."
The program is certified to handle 20 children.
Countryman said for nearly 20 years, the program has been running at about 95 percent capacity every year.
However, similar programs across the state have not been utilized by a similar percentage of people, he said.
The program also utilizes host families. The host families are matched up with children on a number of criteria.
However, the child's family still retained custody and could visit the child.
Countryman said in many cases if a program such as Turning?point is not available, the parents will give up custody of the child and they will be turned over to the foster care system, or the child will be abused or even go to jail.
"We have had kids that graduate from this program go on to college, and other situations where the children living in a stable home with a [host] family will form bonds with that family and are eventually adopted by the host parent," Countryman said. "These are much better solutions than the alternative that will happen when this isn't available to them."
Some of the children in the program have been prepping in the last year for a transition to a higher level of care at residential inpatient programs that will cost taxpayers more money, Countryman said.
Countryman said he is concerned because there are going to be no other programs like Turning Point offered in the state after this year.
"Unfortunately, some of the kids that would usually have this program available are going to end up in jail, foster care or end up on the streets," Countryman said. "None of those things obviously are healthy situations for any child or our community and in these times, where violence is becoming more prevalent, it's really a concern."
He said the Family Counseling Center will not lose any other programs this year.
Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be reached by email at email@example.com