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Niagara County groups collaborate to address mental health issues

photo from Community Missions of Niagara Frontier

A shifting population and healthcare's push for greater efficiency have left some regions with little access to important services. A coalition of community groups in Eastern Niagara County has addressed a gap in mental health services by opening the Peer Recovery Respite Center at 344 Walnut Avenue in Lockport.

Yvonne Clark, Director of Mental Health Recovery Services for Community Missions in Niagara County, says her agency worked with the Niagara County Department of Mental Health, Healthy Minds of Niagara and the Mental Health Association of Niagara in opening the center. In so doing, she says a major need was filled.

"If you were having an emotional or mental crisis a lot of time that meant going to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center because that's the place that people in Niagara County go for a mental health psych evaluation, Clark said.  

"If they're released and have no place to go a lot of times they were referred to our crisis sheltering in Niagara Falls or our respite program in Niagara Falls.  If you were from the eastern end of Niagara County you were almost  forced to go to the Niagara Falls end of the county to receive services."

According to Clark, the center is peer run, meaning that over half the staff has lived with mental health issues. Though an open house is scheduled from 3pm to 6pm today, the center actually opened in March. Clark says the facility has been full most of the month of May.   

"If they need a temporary time out or a place to stay that is safe, now we have four respite beds where people can stay with us as long as they are  working on some kind of recovery plan. Our staff helps them get to and from appointments, help them find apartments if that's what they need, help they find work if that's what they need. And the staff from the four agencies work together to help the client meet their needs," Clark said.