Youth Shelter of Westchester receives $1.5M in funding. It’s all going toward mental health programs

“We reduce the recidivism, we're able to provide these young people with lifelong employment, education, housing,” said the shelter’s executive director, Joanne Dunn.

Emily Young

Jun 4, 2024, 10:50 PM

Updated 7 days ago

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The Youth Shelter of Westchester in Mount Vernon, an alternative to incarceration for men between the ages of 14-24, just received more than $1.5 million in funding – and they're investing it all in mental health.
When Sebastian Valentin was a teenager, he became homeless and started self-medicating with all sorts of drugs.
"I was really just hurt, I had a lot of resentments, a lot of everything that was built up in my heart and spirit, and it was just eating at me, so I would use my substances to try and escape that," he explained.
After a stint in rehab, he was referred to the Youth Shelter of Westchester.
“We reduce the recidivism, we're able to provide these young people with lifelong employment, education, housing,” said the shelter’s executive director, Joanne Dunn.
The men have packed schedules, from vocational training like construction certifications, to higher education. And it was through this programming, that staff began to notice something.
“Young people who were justice impacted were having a lot of issues in regards to mental health. Young people were either undiagnosed, or informally diagnosed,” said Dunn.
“I realized after some time, like, I don't have a drug problem, I had a me problem that I used drugs to solve,” Valentin said.
With the federal funds, they will weave mental health and wellbeing into their everyday program operations. And now, therapists, psychologists, doctors and nurses will now be on site several times a month. Staff have also been trained to identify when someone is struggling.
“To make sure we give young people everything they need so that they can be off on their own trajectory,” said Dunn.


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