Erie County, Say Yes to Education, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and numerous other partners are expanding the number of mental health clinics serving Buffalo's public schools, adding 15 more this school year.
Three years ago the partnership opened 14 clinics to serve Buffalo schools. Last school year, 13 new clinics were added. This year's additions will bring the total number of clinics to 42 of Buffalo's 55 schools.
"Why is this important in Buffalo Public Schools? It's important because, often, the only nurse or only mental health professional that the student will see is someone in the schools," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who joined representatives of just a few of the partners within the Waterfront School in downtown Buffalo. "They often do not have pediatricians, often do not have a family that has a family doctor that watches over the children."
The prevalence of mental health issues is more widespread than one might think, said Bonnie Glazer, president of Child and Adolescent Treatment Services. She told those in attendance at Thursday's announcement that almost one of every five children have a mental disorder that needs attention, yet of those with a problem, only one in five ever receive it.
"Mental health conditions in children are, in fact, more common than asthma," said Glazer.
Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo is providing the funding to assist partners with opening clinics within schools. Agencies that are assisting in at least some of the schools include Baker Victory Services, Catholic Charities, Catholic Health, Child and Family Services, Gateway Longview, Jewish Family Services, Kaleida Health, Lakeshore Behavioral Health, Mid-Erie, and the NYS OMH Children's Psychiatric Center.
Superintendent Kriner Cash, when speaking of the importance of good mental health, pointed out that the need is real, and that the conditions vary.
"Are children depressed? Many of them," he said." Are children not getting enough rest? Many of them. Our children under stress from violence that they've seen or that they've experienced from relatives or close ones. Our children are under duress from families that have come new to the country, and have gone through a lot to get to here."
More than 200 children within Buffalo schools were served by these mental health clinics, officials said.