By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Northborough – As director of Northborough Family and Youth Services (NFYS) for the past 14 years, June David-Fors was aware of a world-wide uptick in mental health disorders even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping her pulse on studies from reputable sources such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, she knows of the many barriers to accessing mental health care. She notes more than half of adults are unable to access treatment. She was driven to stomp out those barriers locally and is thrilled to announce NFYS’s free service for help.
According to David-Fors, barriers to treatment access is further amplified by the scarcity of available therapists and psychiatrists, with long waitlists for outpatient services spanning three months to a year. NFYS grappled with the need to place 28 families on a waitlist of its own.
“This is exactly why we are so pleased to bring the William James College INTERFACE Referral Service to town,” David-Fors said, “It connects residents to therapists on average, within two weeks of their call.”
Free, confidential service
The newly offered free, confidential service emerged from a recently established partnership between NFYS and William James College to assist Northborough residents and public-school students. Through their health referral service helpline, a resource and referral counselor assists callers to navigate the challenges of accessing care and helps them find providers who match their specific needs, insurance and location.
“With our new partnership with William James College, we are able to ensure that no resident will have to ‘go it alone’ in their search for outpatient therapy,” David-Fors said.
Besides the helpline, INTERFACE offers a website at interface.williamjames.edu, that contains a slew of mental health related information including articles, book recommendation, resources and guides to help people navigate the mental health system.
David-Fors said she has witnessed first-hand, the increasing numbers of families in dire need of counseling and assistance with basic needs.
“This includes outpatient therapy, fuel, food; and financial aid to prevent eviction and the shut-off of essential utilities,” she said, adding, “The addition of INTERFACE will certainly assist us in meeting a critical need in our community.”
Continuing services and adapting to pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Northborough’s town hall was forced to close to the public March 17, 2020. To overcome the disruption to in-person services, NFYS immediately established new ways to provide services and stand by residents.
In addition to the new service, NFYS continues to offer a range of other help including counseling (currently via telehealth and telephone appointments), crisis intervention, case management and support of basic health needs; resources and referrals. They also maintain strong partnerships with schools, other town departments and local organizations to bolster access to aid.
“During these most trying times with COVID-19 dramatically changing our entire way of life, I would like to reiterate to residents that they do not have to go it alone,” Davis-Fors said.
The INTERFACE helpline can be accessed at (888) 244-6843 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For assistance from NFYS, call (508) 393-5020. For further details on NFYS and partnerships, visit www.town.northborough.ma.us/family-youth-services.
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