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Mental Health Association newsletter describes collaborations

Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County (MHA) staffers Liz Witherspoon (left) and Jessica Crooks are navigators for Strong Starts Chautauqua, a life-saving initiative designed to help pregnant women and young children. It resulted from a collaboration of nearly three dozen partners, as described in the MHA’s recent newsletter.

The collaboration of 32 agencies and schools in the county has produced Strong Starts Chautauqua.

Chautauqua County has the fourth highest rate of child poverty in New York state. It contains less than one percent of the state’s population, yet accounts for 10% of state allegations of parental drug or alcohol misuse.

Maternal substance misuse during pregnancy can lead to learning disabilities and low IQ, hyperactivity, poor ability to communicate, and poor reasoning and judgment. Lifelong consequences can be issues with school and social skills, mental health, substance use, keeping a job, and trouble with the law.

Strong Starts Chautauqua, an initiative designed to help pregnant women and young children, has two goals:

¯ for all expectant women in Chautauqua County to have access to prenatal education, care, and community support to promote healthy birth outcomes and strong futures for their children, and

¯ for all children aged birth through five to have access to resources and timely, responsible care that help them achieve their full potential.

Last fall the Mental Health Association added two new recovery coaches to work as Strong Starts navigators. Liz Witherspoon and Jessica Crooks joined Allison Murphy and Dorothy Carlson, two MHA coaches already working with moms. As navigators, the coaches support moms through pregnancy and postpartum and get help for their children later. As the first county in the state to take this approach, Chautauqua County has created a strategy that could become a model for New York state and across the country.

The Mental Health Association is also participating in the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation’s Give Big CHQ. To donate, visit GiveBigCHQ.org and search for the Mental Health Association.

Steven Cobb, Mental Health Association executive director, said a recent Appalachian Regional Commission grant is giving a boost to MHA’s OPEN (Occupational Peer Empowerment Network) program. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown and the MHA are working together on a new social enterprise that will serve as a training ground for participants.

“Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits will soon be up and running, so stay tuned,” Cobb said. “There will be more news to come!”

Another newsletter story describes Luis Rosa, MHA’s 2020 Inaugural Peer of the Year, and the contribution he made to helping people with their journey to recovery, especially those in the Hispanic community.

Other news items include donation of a van from UPMC Chautauqua, online Narcan training for the Cassadaga Job Corps Center and the Jamestown Community Learning Council, and connections with the Jamestown Police Department’s Project Crossroads and Outpour Project.

A few of the more than three dozen groups that meet at the MHA are mentioned, like Crystal Meth Anonymous, AA and NA, #MeToo, Southern Tier Queer Peers, Knitting for Wellbeing, Art in Recovery, PTSD, Suicide Prevention, Master Your Money, Relapse Prevention, and Recovery Dharma.

To access the MHA’s Spring Newsletter online, go to MHAChautauqua.org/newsletters.

For a printed copy, stop in at the Gateway Building Door 14, 31 Water Street in Jamestown, call (716) 661-9044, or email newsletter@MHAChautauqua.org.

With programs in both Jamestown and Dunkirk, the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County is a peer recovery center offering support groups and individual coaching for people looking to improve their lives, deepen wellness, thrive in recovery, or support those on a recovery path. Peers use their personal stories to help people find recovery in their own lives in their own way.

All Mental Health Association services are free.

To learn more about the Mental Health Association, call 661-9044 or visit MHAChautauqua.org or facebook.com/MHAChautauqua.

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