There are few things more heartbreaking than a young person going down the wrong path.
As a former law enforcement officer, I remember seeing kids, often still in their teens, in handcuffs headed for the criminal justice system.
We all knew that once a person goes into the system, sometimes they really never come out.
What a waste of human potential to see a person, especially a young person, go back and forth between the courts and prison.
We want better for Rockland’s young people.
We want them to be at work, in school, at home, with their families – not in court and certainly not in prison.
The Rockland County Partnership for Safe Youth was formed to prevent our young people who have taken tentative steps down that path from following it into a lifetime of trouble.
And now we will be able to expand the work we are doing. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has awarded Rockland County $4 million to expand the Partnership for Safe Youth.
That funding will allow us to serve more youth and to focus more closely on their mental health needs. So far, the program has served 141 people. We hope that with the additional funds, we will be able to help at least 255 people every year at the center, which is located in the Nyack BOCES building.
The program uses all the resources we have – the schools, our county departments, the District Attorney and all of our community partners – to prevent our teens and young adults from entering the criminal justice system.
It’s an innovative effort that uses a team approach involving different agencies and departments. The Rockland County departments of mental health, social services, probation and the District Attorney’s office all work together with BOCES to provide assistance.
I was pleased to stand with Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, BOCES COO Dr. Mary Jean Marsico, Rockland Commissioner of Mental Health Michael Leitzes, Rockland Commissioner of Social Services Susan Sherwood and others to announce this award.
Again, the goal is to help our young people and keep them out of the criminal justice system.
But it’s easy to see how this effort also helps keep costs down. It’s hard to put a price on what we save by keeping a person out of jail, reducing hospitalizations, cutting crime and putting a young person on the right path toward becoming a full and functioning member of our society.
It’s a good investment. We are proud that Rockland County is leading the nation with this innovative program and we’re proud that the federal government has recognized our efforts.
It took a team effort to apply for and receive this prestigious grant. And we will apply this team effort to improve the lives of our young people.