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Plush emotions and more aim to help local youths with Clinical & Support Options program

  • CSO opened its Greenfield, Arch Street location to run its All-Star program, funded by the state Department of Mental Health. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • CSO opened its Greenfield, Arch Street location to run its All-Star program, funded by the state Department of Mental Health. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon



For the Gazette
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

GREENFIELD — Plush versions of characters from the critically acclaimed animated film “Inside Out” lounged around the bright new clinical space at One Arch Place.

Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Joy — personified emotions that help guide an adolescent through life — were sitting around on chairs and the carpet Tuesday, taking in the day’s open house at a new home of the children’s program, “All-Star,” designed to help students with diagnosed mental health problems.

“We’re just really excited to give kids and families a safe and normalizing place to not only get treatment but also do everyday normal activities with other kids without being stigmatized,” Clinical & Support Options Chief Executive Officer Karin Jeffers said.

The Greenfield program is supported by a $5 million, five-year grant from the state Department of Mental Health to Clinical & Support Options. Greenfield is one of three program locations in the region, along with Athol and Florence.

Rolling out the new services, CSO showed off its Arch Street location to regional clinicians and parents.

The program is meant to act as an after-school service for children aged 8 to 17 with clinically diagnosed mental health issues. Across its three locations, it can serve up to 60 children.

“Our goal is to turn that around and support them as an individual and a family and not as their diagnosis,” Jeffers said.

Although CSO was showing off its services, the program itself is not new. Previously, ServiceNet ran the program in Greenfield and Florence. Following the end of its most recent grant, ServiceNet did not win the award to continue its services. Instead, CSO now has the grant and is providing the services of this after-school, state-funded program.

Since opening its services in October to six children, the Greenfield site has been able to do a range of activities with its participants, from going to corn mazes to apple picking, and it plans an upcoming ice skating trip. During these outings, and during everyday activities, children learn different coping skills, “helping (them) be able to regulate themselves and be in control of how they feel,” program site manager Jeremy Martin said.

Both Greenfield and Florence receive $250,000 annually, while Athol will receive $500,000, because it is under two contracts with the state, servicing both Franklin and Worcester county. The money goes to paying for the site locations, staffing — including about a dozen new hires — materials and trips, and transportation from school and to home.

“We’re looking forward to a good relationship,” said Sean Barry, the state Department of Mental Health’s director of child adolescent services for western Massachusetts. “It seems so far, so good.”

Barry and the department’s Western Massachusetts Area Director Julie Schwager were on hand from the regional office to check out the new location, as a part of the day’s open house.

Jeffers said if families think this may be a good fit for their child, they may contact CSO to find out if they would qualify for the service, which requires a formal recommendation through the department of Mental Health.

“It really adds to that whole continuum of services that we’re able to provide,” CSO’s Jeffers said. “We’re hopeful that it’s a long-term home.”