Message from the CEO

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Fern A. Zagor, LCSW, ACSW

The Staten Island Mental Health Society has only one mission: to improve the quality of life for Staten Island children.  It is our sole purpose.  Four years ago, I was named the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the Society.  I am honored by this appointment and the faith and confidence it reflects.  And, I am very excited about the opportunity.  But, I am also aware that these are very difficult times.  Funding sources are shrinking and the system of health care is dramatically changing.

Despite this, I am pleased to report that Staten Island families can continue to count on us. Even four years after Super-Storm Sandy, our staff is still out in the field assisting people through our Mobile Integrated Health Team, a partnership with Community Health Action of Staten Island. The MIHT brings mental health and physical health screenings  into the homes of people still suffering the effects of the hurricane. We also continue our counseling programs in several schools in Sandy-affected areas, helping traumatized children get back their coping skills.  The stories we are still hearing and the extent of the trauma and PTSD remain chilling.  We continue to welcome anyone in the community to drop in at any of our clinical sites. There is no charge for these crisis counseling services.

Why is children’s mental health important? Good mental health allows children to think clearly, develop socially and learn new skills. Additionally, good friends and encouraging words from adults are all important for helping children develop self confidence, high self-esteem, and a healthy emotional outlook on life.  But sometimes, children and their parents need the help of professionals to support the children’s healthy growth.

An estimated 15 million of our nation’s young people can currently be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Many more are at risk of developing a disorder due to risk factors in their biology or genetics; within their families, schools, and communities; and among their peers. There is a great need for mental health professionals to provide the best available care based on scientific evidence, good clinical expertise, and that takes into account the unique characteristics of the child or adolescent. However, it is estimated that only about 7 percent of those who need services receive appropriate help from mental health professionals.

Our professional and support staffs bring to Staten Island the latest evidence-based diagnostic and therapeutic services.  Our staff receives continual training.  In order to provide services to the greatest number of Staten Island children, we work very hard to reduce our administrative costs.

We count on reimbursement from health insurance providers, private and public grants, volunteers, and donations from very generous foundations and individuals.  I look forward to the work ahead as we continue to respond to the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy and face the many challenges of our changing social and economic environment.   Together, we will continue our mission and work towards helping Staten Island children and their families have a better future.

Ms. Zagor would like to hear from you. If you would like to contact her, e-mail FZagor@simhs.org (Sorry, attachments cannot be opened.)