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Hear and Now Herald: Fall 2010 Issue

Feature Story (continued)

Building Bridges - Helping Youth in Residential Return Home Sooner & With Increased Success

By Brian Conheady, Project Supervisor, Building Bridges Demonstration Project

It is unfortunate, that for some Monroe County children with acute mental health needs, appropriate treatment can mean living away from their home, their families and their community. While the care that these youth receive within the residential programs is both necessary and appropriate, Monroe County believes that this intervention should always be at the least restrictive level of care and with a focus on returning children back home in a timely and successful manner.

Monroe County Building Bridges Demonstration Project - Ensuring Effective Use of Residential Care

In an effort to improve the system of care for children and their families, the Monroe County Building Bridges Workgroup was formed in March, 2008.  For this project, the Monroe County Department of Human Services (MCDHS), Child and Family Services (C&FS) and Office of Mental Health (OMH) partnered with representatives from Crestwood Children’s Center, Hillside Children’s Center, and St. Joseph’s Villa.

Also included in this workgroup were parents and youth who have had experience with residential care. The goal of this project was to ensure effective use of residential care in Monroe County AND to infuse System of Care Values and Building Bridges Principles in all aspects of service delivery, and the policies and procedures that govern this work. This workgroup, and subsequent Building Bridges Demonstration Project, was guided by the work and principles of the national Building Bridges Initiative (www.buildingbridges4youth.org).

The Demonstration Project focuses on two critical elements:

  1. Monroe County and the residential providers will partner to ensure that System of Care values and Building Bridges principles are infused and operational within the residential settings.

  2. Child and Family Teams (CFT) will be used for youth in residential care with the intent of providing individualized and innovative approaches that are able to meet the youth and family needs, and facilitate timely discharge.


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Since June of this year, the Building Bridges staff (Project Supervisor Brian Conheady, Care Coordinators Lana Ritterman-McAndrew and Cindy Cannon) have been working with enthusiastic staff from Crestwood, Hillside Children’s Center and St. Joseph’s Villa to bring the key values and principles to life in the residential programs.

These agencies are committed to providing:

  • programs that are family driven and youth guided
  • environments that are culturally and linguistically competent, and value diversity
  • individualized planning and care, specific to each child’s and family’s needs
  • greater emphasis on understanding trauma and the effects trauma has on both the children and their families
  • family-defined teams with emphasis on the inclusion of natural supports
  • residential treatment as part of a system of care; a time-limited intervention with specific goals in mind, not a destination, returning the child to the family as soon as targets are met
  • strengths based and unconditional care; a “whatever it takes” collaborative approach
  • focus on addressing the underlying needs that cause behavior
  • high emphasis on providing transitional planning from the point of admission
  • ongoing support for the families so that their needs are addressed throughout the child’s stay and for as long as needed post-discharge
  • connection to the home and community throughout a child’s stay
  • a definition of success based by how well a youth and their family does  in the home, the community, the school post-discharge, not by how well they did on campus
  • outcome-based goals with emphasis on the development and use of evidenced-based practices, best practices, or practice–based evidence that are consistent with the values/principles mentioned above.

In addition to this, the Building Bridges team is currently facilitating the Child and Family Team (CFT) process with 15 Monroe County youth and their families from the above mentioned residential programs in an effort to provide needs based direction, successful outcomes, and timely return home.

Starting 1/1/11, the Building Bridges team will be focusing specifically on 20 youth who are in the custody of Monroe County DHS and are newly placed in an OCFS certified placement with a Monroe County residential provider.

Feedback from families who have participated in the project so far has been encouraging. One mother recently commented,

“I wish this program would have existed when my son was admitted to residential. We’re getting now what we needed back then.”

Levi Price with his dad, Renelder Price

Another parent, Renelder Price,  whose son Levi is projected to be discharged from Hillside’s Varick campus in December, commented that the Building Bridges Program has,

“helped us to focus on what we needed to do to help our son to be successful in the future.”

This parent went on to say that other programs were “focused on the negative” and judged the family based on records rather than the personal interactions Building Bridges focuses on. 

Although the program is in its’ early stages, the changes noted have been very positive. While Monroe County and the residential providers have long been committed to providing excellent services for children with mental health issues, addressing the diverse and complex needs of today’s youth and families can be extremely challenging. The Building Bridges Program is focused on providing an exciting and effective framework for residential service provision in the future.

For more information on the Monroe County Building Bridges Demonstration Project, please feel free to contact Brian Conheady at 753-2624.


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FUNDING FOR THIS PUBLICATION WAS MADE POSSIBLE (IN PART) BY GRANT NO. SM57043 FROM SAMHSA IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE MONROE COUNTY OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN WRITTEN MATERIALS OR PUBLICATIONS AND BY CONTRIBUTORS TO THE "HEAR AND NOW HERALD" DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE OFFICIAL POLICIES OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES; NOR DOES MENTION OF TRADE NAMES, COMMERCIAL PRACTICES, OR ORGANIZATIONS IMPLY ENDORSEMENT BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OR MONROE COUNTY.