/ April 16, 2021

Mental Health Services in Runaway and Homeless Youth Residences and Drop-In Centers: A partner in the care process

For the past five years, Jason Manizza has been meeting and providing mental health counseling for runaway and homeless youth in New York City. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Manizza was there for the young residents – offering positive, encouraging support during some of the most challenging moments of their lives.

As mental health coordinator at two residences that serve female-identifying youth from ages 16-20, Mr. Manizza provides diagnostic and individualized counseling for residents—including mothers and pregnant residents. He also helps connect residents to health insurance and other needed community-based services.

Throughout the pandemic, Mr. Manizza continued to meet with residents regularly. And with the onslaught of COVID-19-related stress and anxiety, some clients were in need of frequent sessions. His colleagues say he was there for them, too.

“Jason never shows any type of discouragement,” said Andrew Luong, Program Director at The Children’s Village. “In addition to being a stable support for the youth, Jason also helps staff cope and he also helps us better serve residents.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, The Children’s Village continues to provide critical housing and supportive services for runaway and homeless youth, and Jason plays a big role in ensuring the space is welcoming and healing. “Jason is compassionate, kind, and an expert mental health practitioner. He reminds us that our work is to help every young person as partners in the care process,” added Mr. Luong.

From Mr. Manizza:
“I’m drawn to providing mental health services for youth because, in my mind, they are our society’s lifeblood. What keeps me going is a cemented value for the young women I serve. Women bring us all into the world and are our most important human resource; they deserve our very best effort towards promoting their ability to thrive.”

Community mental health program: Mental Health Services in Runaway and Homeless Youth Residences and Drop-In Centers

The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) funds Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Drop-in Centers, Crisis Services and Transitional Independent Living Residential Programs, which provide specialized services to vulnerable youth, including LGBTQ+ identifying youth. Since 2016, the Office of Community Mental Health has partnered with DYCD’s RHY programs to enhance mental health services offered to young people residing in more than 40 RHY residential programs and eight drop-in centers across all five boroughs. Over 2,600 young people were served by mental health professionals in Fiscal Year 2020, and more than 13,600 young people have been served through this program since 2016. During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health support continued to be provided to youth both in-person and through new tele-mental health services at residential programs (which remained open and operational during the pandemic) and drop-in centers (which operated on a modified schedule).