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HYSB forges bonds as it helps community’s youth

FALLS VILLAGE — October’s Falcon 5K marathon held at Indian Mountain School (IMS) in Lakeville to benefit the Housatonic Youth Service Bureau (HYSB) was hailed as a fundraising success, but also as a win because making community friends and connections is part of HYSB’s mission to strengthen the emotional health of youth and families

More than 100 runners registered for the event, held on Oct. 22 — the first 5K held for HYSB since the pandemic.

“Schools throughout the country have seen a post-pandemic surge in the need for increased mental health services for their students, and we feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of these efforts by hosting something like the Falcon 5K,” said Charles Brown, Director of Admissions at IMS. “We hope to make it an annual event. A number of our students have benefitted from HYSB services over the years.”

HYSB, a nonprofit human services agency benefiting youth and families in Northwest Connecticut through free counseling and empowerment programs, has seen a surge in need since the pandemic, particularly among younger children.

HYSB serves preschool through high school aged youth in the Region One School District, where there is a shortage of child mental health providers, in keeping with nationwide trends.

What makes HYSB unique is both its no-cost services and its collaboration and connection with schools.

Most of its services take place in the local school settings.

Catherine, age 17, a student at Housatonic Valley Regional High School, said, “HYSB provided me with a comforting and safe environment to share my true self.”

What also sets HYSB apart, according to Executive Director Kelly Parker, is that most of the programming “is based on feedback from youth and always changing and evolving to meet the community need.”

HYSB providers utilize a short-term 10-week model of therapy, but welcome clients back when need arises.

Well over 100 youth each week are served. Clients are also referred out and connected to community resources.

HYSB also recognizes that hardships facing youth and families before the pandemic have only intensified. As a result, it is more committed than ever to serving and supporting youth.

Recognition that the school-based setting is conducive to prevention, accessibility, improved academic experience and social emotional growth has been encouraging. Along with this young generation’s sharp rise in mental health challenge is its strong stance against  stigmatization and the importance of seeking services early on.

Since its establishment in 1991, fundraising has been an integral part of HYSB’s survival and evolution. Along with the Falcon 5K, HYSB holds a charity golf tournament, its largest fundraiser, at the Torrington Country Club.

But the agency is not without its challenges. Difficulty hiring and high staff turnover exist, due in part to less-than-competitive salaries.

The agency structure is made up of the following positions: Executive Director, Director of Finance, Director of Development, Clinical Director, two Clinicians and a Youth Program Coordinator. (The last is part of a newly formed social work position.)

Due to funding constraints, the new position is currently only filled part time with a combination of local and federal funding. The agency had to draw from its grant designated for prevention programming.

HYSB has an annual budget of $675,000, of which 42% is derived from business, community and individuals and 23 % from town and state governments. The balance is from foundation grants and contracts.

In terms of local funding, HYSB receives appropriations annually from each of the six towns in Region One. In addition, it has requested $60,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding from each town in its jurisdiction. To date, it has received $4,000 from Salisbury, and $15,000 from both Cornwall and Sharon. While not enough to hire the full-time position, the help has been “significantly impactful,” according to Parker.

Volunteers are needed to help with fundraising events, program implementation and community festivals.


Isabelle Clark is a licensed independent clinical social worker.

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