Doctors and social workers raise awareness of mental health services in Rochester

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – May is mental health awareness month, which is why doctors at the University of Rochester Medical Center are speaking out about the obstacles many people face when it comes to seeking help for their families and children.

Dr. Linda Alpert-Gillis, Director of Pediatric Health and Wellness at UR Medicine, said outreach events like the one held on Saturday at United Methodist Church Emmanuel are just the beginning.

“One of the reasons we are at this congregation this morning is because we have a family member of a child that’s one of of our patients who belongs to this congregation,” Alpert-Gillis said.

The event was all part of a larger effort to provide resources to congregation members and anyone who may need assistance.

“The best time to help children and families is really as soon as problems begin and not to wait until they become more serious and kids are more impacted by them,” Alpert-Gillis said.

The particularly challenging thing is taking the stigma away from those seeking help.

“Health promotion is what we are trying to do in the community as well as early intervention so people get the assistance they need as soon as possible,” Alpert-Gillis said.

It’s a task that licensed clinical social worker and owner of Sankofa Family Counseling Services, Khadijah Tillman, faces head-on every day.

“Finding therapists and mental health providers that have that specialty in providing children’s mental health services, as well as working holistically with the entire family, and also providers that are open to accepting Medicaid reimbursement for payments,” Tillman said.

As part of the recently passed state budget, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a $1 billion overhaul to New York State’s continuum of mental care, increasing inpatient psychiatric care treatment capacity at hospitals, and expanding outpatient services.

Access to care that Tillman says is critical at a time when so many are in need.

“It’s okay to have someone to talk to who is outside your family, who is outside of your friend group, who is not judgmental or not bias to your story or your narrative. So a safe place that is just for you,” Tillman said.