A one-stop-shop for youth mental health services is preparing to open next to Allderdice High

A one-stop-shop for youth mental health services is preparing to open next to Allderdice High

A new program for youth struggling with mental health issues in the Pittsburgh area is set to open a physical space near Allderdice High School.

The UpStreet mental health service was created in October 2020 as an online service at the height of the pandemic, when young people across the country were struggling with their mental health. The program was the brainchild of Dana Gold, the COO of the nonprofit social services Jewish Family and Community Services [JFCS].

Starting online made sense, according to Gold, not just because of the pandemic. “What do children always have?” A phone,” she said. “And where do they go when they seek help? They go to their phone; they go on the Internet.

But she said she always knew UpStreet needed a physical space to call home. On Tuesday, the group celebrated an “inauguration” in a closed bowling alley down the street from Allderdice High Schoolthe second largest high school in the city, in Squirrel Hill.

A spring survey of Pittsburgh public school students ages 8-18 shows how mental health issues among Pittsburgh youth persist. Of the roughly 9,000 students, more than 1,000 said they felt lonely all the time in the past week. More than 500 said they never felt loved in the past week. And more than 300 said they never felt safe in the past week.

According to data from UpStreet, more than 250 students at Allderdice High School have a diagnosable mental health condition. “Young people can make the right decision to walk down the street, go up to UpStreet, have a coffee, have a snack and talk to an adult, talk to a therapist,” she said. “Rather than drinking or smoking or making really bad choices elsewhere.”

Erin Barr, UpStreet’s clinical coordinator, said the program has already served around 2,000 young people since its launch two years ago, including 9,000 brief supportive conversations, 130 clients in therapy and around 900 in groups and workshops. community programs. UpStreet has three full-time therapists and several graduate students who provide immediate online support, ongoing therapeutic services, and peer counseling. They offer support for day-to-day issues, ongoing mental health issues and safety concerns, she said. The program also provides support for parents and other adults who need help working with young people in their lives.

Barr said one of the main advantages of the UpStreet model is the low barriers to getting help. “You don’t need an appointment. You don’t have to think ahead. You don’t have to plan when you are going to come and talk to a mental health professional. You don’t need to be a customer. There is no paperwork to fill out. There are no forms to fill out. We don’t need to know your insurance. We don’t need to know how you are going to pay for the services because everything is free,” she said. “Just show up, either in our physical space here when we’re open, or on our UpStreetpgh.org website.”

Asha Edson, a psychology student at the University of Pittsburgh who has served on UpStreet’s advisory board since its inception, said she struggles with mental health issues and wishes she had a program like UpStreet to turn to. school.

“Adolescent mental health is something that is often overlooked and it’s very easy for people to dismiss it as just a tumultuous and conflicted period of adolescence. It’s hormones, it’s puberty and everything,” she said. “But this is a serious problem.”

A JFCS spokeswoman said she expects the new venue to be fully open by summer.

The spokesperson said two staff members usually monitor the online chat and the typical wait time was only a few minutes. WESA attempted to use UpStreet’s online chatbot this afternoon and received no response from a real person.

The counseling service can be reached at 412-586-3732 or through its website, upstreetpgh.org.

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