Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services celebrates year of successes
By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Shrewsbury – Local and state officials, as well as representatives of social services, religion institutions and businesses gathered at the Knights of Columbus Hall Oct. 31 for the annual Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services (SYFS) breakfast.
SYFS, located at 240 Maple Ave., is a private, nonprofit community counseling and social services agency that serves people of all ages who either live or work in the town of Shrewsbury. Terry Cassidy has been the organization’s executive director for just over a year. In that time, she told the audience at the breakfast, she has been impressed by the many people who have stepped up to help in times of challenges.
“You are ‘I am SYFS’,” she said, echoing the organization’s catch phrase that was used in a campaign this year. “There are so many community heroes.”
That partnership with other organizations, businesses and residents is necessary, she said, because of the need in the community. Based on the statistics that one in five people (20 percent) suffer from a mental disorder, 7,400 individuals in Shrewsbury fall into that category. Nearly 2,000 individuals in the town live below the federal poverty line, she said, which for a family of four means they have an income of less than $24,000 annually.
SYFS currently has seven licensed therapists, one clinical psychologist and 11 interns. The organization offers counseling of all types as well as helping clients get access to housing, fuel assistance and federal programs. Innovative programs with the public schools include a Grief and Loss Group, “Way to Go, Guys!” for middle school boys, ‘You Go, Girl!” for middle school girls, and T.R.A.I.L. Blazers for young adults.
“During the school year we help 72-100 people per week,” Cassidy said. “The ages range from 5 to 98.”
Last December the organization was really put to the test, she noted, when the state officially suddenly placed a number of homeless families from other parts of the state in the Days Inn on Route 9. The community rallied, she said, to help SYFS and St. Anne’s Human Services assist those families with food, clothing, medical care and other necessary services. And with the assistance of Fallon Community Health and UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center, SYFS was able to ensure that 48 children had physical health screens and immunizations.
Tom Kennedy, a member of the Board of Directors, presented a financial overview of the organization. The operating budget for 2013-2014 was $331,018, he noted, with 70 percent going to salaries. The majority of its funding (58 percent) comes from fundraisers, with two of the biggest the annual Gala and the annual Golf Classic run by State Rep. Matt Beaton (R-Shrewsbury). And although SYFS is a private organization, the town contributes 22 percent to the annual budget.
As the agency moves forward, it is striving to become a “self-sustaining comprehensive behavioral health center meeting the needs of the community,” Kennedy said. As such, the board hopes to obtain a mental health clinic license, hire a medical director, be able to reimburse second-year graduate interns and be reimbursed for Mass. Health referrals.
Currently, the agency cannot accept Mass. Health because its facility is not compliant with American with Disabilities (ADA) laws.
“Our facility is our greatest barrier,” Cassidy said. “Not only is it non-ADA compliant, we do not have enough counseling rooms so we have to do a juggling act. In the summer, sometimes we use the picnic tables outside!”
The agency now has a facility subcommittee that is assessing the needs and that will make recommendations regarding purchasing, renting or leasing another property.
Town Manager Daniel Morgado also addressed the audience, providing an update on the town’s overall economic status.
“We’ve had an amazing year,” he said, noting the successful debt exclusion vote for the library expansion project and operational override vote that was approved in June.
In spite of that, the town will still face a number of challenges, he said, including working with developers on potential Chapter 40B (affordable housing) projects, looming storm water management regulations and retiree pensions.
SYFS also presented the annual Michael Gregory award to David Long, chair of the Board of Directors. Long’s wife Kim, accepted the award on his behalf. The award is presented annually to a supporter who has “given extraordinary effort and support.” Long has been on the board for seven years and chair since 2010.
For more information, visit www.syfs-ma.org.
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