OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature on Thursday night approved contracting with Cayuga Centers of Auburn to provide MultiSystemic Therapy effective Jan. 1, 2014.
The therapy program would put an end to the Youth Advocate Program in the county.
YAP has been around for more than 15 years, according to Stacie Roberts, program director. The national program has been in existence for more than 30 years, she added.
The MST intervention therapy focuses on increasing parenting skills and changing the behavior of violent and criminal youth. The therapists go to where the youth live, hangs out and attends school. “They are there when needed,” according to the resolution.
The cost of the program for 2014 would be $218,292.
However, several people, from 10-year-olds to adults, spoke out against the new program and in favor of retaining YAP.
Roberts asked the legislators to keep YAP in the county’s 2014 budget.
“It is an intensive service that works with 44 families at any given time from five to 20 hours per week,” she said. “The scope of our program is large and comprehensive; services are individualized and they include the entire family.”
For the months June, July and August, YAP had 357 safety interventions and 5,468 family interventions, she pointed out.
“If YAP ends, this is a huge void to be filled. This void cannot be provided for by any service included in the proposed 2014 DSS budget,” Roberts said, adding that funds (used for the program) would be allocated to additional therapy programs and into an after-school program for the Fulton school district only.
The district has partnered with DSS for three years for the program and after the three years end, they will need to find additional funding, Roberts said.
She quoted media reports in which DSS Commissioner Gregg Heffner said YAP has outlived its usefulness and should be replaced with services that more accurately reflect the emerging needs of our families. He also reportedly questioned the time YAP advocates spend with families.
“What will happen to the families who don’t meet the (MST) requirements for therapy but who still need the support?” Roberts asked.
Two young ladies told the legislators how YAP has been a very important part of their lives.
“It taught me coping skills; I used to cut (myself) and do other self-harm issues,” one said. “When I came into YAP, my advocate helped me with those coping skills. If you care about me or any of the other clients, you will not pull our program.”
A 10-year-old from Mexico also spoke in favor of YAP.
He went around collecting signatures on a petition to save the program, he said, adding “My family is a YAP family. YAP has helped make my family stronger and less angry.”
His advocate has been there very late at night and the first thing in the morning, he told the legislators.
“She helped keep us safe and made sure things were good,” he said.
“I have had therapy all of my life, both in my home and personal,” a Mexico resident said. “I believe that therapy does help. I also believe that it has been only through the YAP advocate that comes into my home that has allowed me to grow as a parent; my family has grown, become stable and communicates more.”
In her experience, she has found it difficult to schedule therapists. The YAP advocate was able to work around her work schedule and meet at convenient times, she pointed out. “There are times that we need support when something is really happening; my advocate has been at my home as late as 10 p.m. in order to ensure that the situation is safe and stable. She doesn’t look at her watch and say her time is up.”
Advocate Carol Ireland took umbrage over the number of hours she, and other advocates, spend in a family’s home and that their educational level was being called into question.
She wonders who will fill their place once the program ends.
“Some say an increase in therapy will fill the void. Yet, when I talk with families, they say they don’t need more therapy. For some families, their needs aren’t about therapy – it’s about putting a meal on the table,” she said.
She highlighted several things advocates have done to help their families including helping them get food in emergencies, helping get rid of lice and sitting at the hospital with someone who wanted to harm themselves and other incidents.
“What services is going to assure the safety and well being of these families? While some may be OK, there are many that will not be,” she said.
It makes sense (at a cost of $290,700 per year or $18.01 per day per family) to keep YAP in the county’s budget, she said.
Heather Crofoot, assistant director of YAP, told legislators, “I want you to hear my heart.”
She said she isn’t worried about losing her job, or Roberts’ job and the advocates’ jobs.
“They are educated. They are experienced and in case you haven’t noticed, they are passionate about what they do! They will find other jobs, and in all honesty they will most likely make significantly more than they make at YAP,” she said.
Who she’s worried about, she said, are the families.
“Some of them will not do well without the hands-on support that YAP offers. Come Jan. 1, there is no concrete plan, there is no safety net for them,” she said. “There is a tremendous need in Oswego County; it doesn’t reside in Fulton alone.
She asked that legislators discuss the issue so they can make an educated decision.
A Schroeppel resident told about her son who had several issues. YAP helped turn things around for him, she said.
“He is passing every single class in ninth grade,” she said. “He’s been in programs, therapies since he was five years old. But I have never had the results that we have had in less than a year being in YAP. My son, who’s 14, started telling me that he loves me. What teen-ager tells their parent, being a boy, ‘Mom, I love you.’ It is the first time in years I’ve heard my son say that.”
Frank Castiglia of Fulton told the legislators that money isn’t the answer.
“You just got done hearing a bunch of young adults and adults speak to you about the YAP program and how important it is to them. I know each and every one of you out there is thinking money,” he said.
Referring to the resolution the legislators approved for new patrol cars for the Sheriff’s Office, he said if they sponsor YAP, they wouldn’t need as many patrol cars.
He claimed there are $10 million in the budget proposal for “fringe benefits.”
“Your fringe benefits are right back there behind ya. I work with problem kids day in and day out. If you don’t work with them when they’re young, you’re going to need 10 more police cars than the ones you have now. You have to invest in their future,” he said. “Money isn’t the answer. If you want to save money in the future, you spend it now. If you don’t you’re going to have a program that maybe will work in the long-run. But in the short-run you’ll lose half of the people, half of the kids that are going into that program. They are going to drop out of the program and you’re going to have more 911 calls.”