Sid Jacobson JCC to open preventative mental health center this fall

Sid Jacobson JCC to open preventative mental health center this fall
Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in East Hills. (Photo Courtesy of the Sid Jacobson JCC)

The Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center is developing a new preventative mental health center to address the needs of their members amid a mental health pandemic, Deputy Executive Director Dina Shuster said.

Shuster said the center will be a safe space for the community to engage with in order to reflect, meditate and attend workshops and events catered towards preventative mental health.

Workshops ideas could include skill-building on mindfulness and resiliency, as well as how-to’s on various life topics like becoming an empty nester, being a single parent or even the mental health difficulties of aging, Shuster said.

“So many of these people that we touch could use this extra support,” Shuster said. “We touch every part of the community. We hear from every part of the community how mental health is impacting their life.”

The center would not be a mental health clinic, Shuster said, but rather a place to build individuals’ resiliency and preventative mental health skills through programs so that when presented with challenges they have the tools to work through them.

She said that due to their role in providing social services for their community members, the center is equipped to refer individuals to the appropriate resources in the event that someone needs further mental health assistance.

The idea for the center came about when local psychologist Gayle Berg raised concerns to the JCC about the mental health pandemic that is affecting the community and how they could assist in addressing it.

Shuster said they agreed that a mental health pandemic is what community members are in the midst of, with many members expressing the need for mental health services.

She said helping community members work through difficult times is part of the JCC’s obligation.

“They’re asking for this,” Shuster said.

Berg suggested a center for preventative mental health to address this concern, providing not only a physical space but also a series of programs and a curriculum.

The name of the center is still being finalized, but Shuster said the working name at the moment is the Dr. Gayle Berg Center for Psychological Resilience and Growth.

The center’s director is Lisa Korman, a psychology professor at Nassau Community College and a New York State licensed psychologist.

She said the JCC is uniquely situated to house such a center because it already offers support programs on various topics that coincide with their new mission of providing mental health support.

Other programs the JCC now provides are caregiver support groups, wellness services for cancer survivors and vocational life skills training for individuals with special needs.

“We’re in that space already,” Shuster said. “But this is going to lift everything up and hopefully the community up.”

The center will be located within the JCC, which Shuster said is an intentional design in order to make it a welcoming space for all JCC members to use at any time.

“We want it to feel part of the JCC, yet different and special,” Shuster said.

While the preventative mental health center will be a physical location at the JCC, Shuster said they are also looking to do work out in the community with training sessions or mental health screenings.

The center is still being developed, but Shuster said they are aiming for a soft opening in the fall and a grand opening shortly after.

Shuster said the center’s physical space is being organically designed using wood tones and greenery to assist in grounding its members.

In the meantime, Shuster said the center is developing its fall portfolio and curriculum to provide programs upon opening.

Shuster said that she and the JCC expect to bring this to the community soon.

“I’m looking forward to being able to lift up the community with additional tools, skills and resources for preventative mental health in all the work that we do and in all the ways that we see that the community is touched and affected by this mental health pandemic that we’re in right now,” Shuster said.

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