YOUTH POWER nothing about us without us YP!

In this eNews
November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month!
Peer Leader Highlight: Nicole Giambalvo
New York State Success Kicks Off Year Two of System of Care Expansion
OMH Conducting Meetings About Justice Center Investigations
Update: Regional Centers of Excellence
Governor Cuomo Signs Bill Allowing Families Access to Records of People who were Abused in Care
Fifty Years Later: Can We Learn Anything From the Community Mental Health Act
Bully: A Film Review
States Get Millions to Transition Youth with Disabilities off SSI
Apply for your chance to be a world traveler
FosterClub Survey
Members of Congress Back Presidential Youth Council
LIoyd I Sederer MD, Chief Medical Officer of OMH writes Essay About Systems Change
Get Help Finding Affordable Insurance
Free Legal Help for Youth
Guides to College
Free Online Training for NYC High School Educators
Youth Advocate Family Resource Center

Save These Dates

February 11, 2014
Families Together 
Legislative Lunch
with YP! Activites

April 6 and 7, 2014
Families Together 
Annual Conference with 
YP! Track

Don't Miss this Important Youth Voice Opportunity

Members Only Alert Help develop a tool that young people and their family members can use when looking for services and supports.


Apps?  Websites?  Hotlines?  Friends? 

What would help you find the right services at the right time?


Click here to take the survey. Or follow the direct link below: 


You can also take the survey linked through the YP!  website. 


The 411 

The goal of this youth survey is to get input for the design of a tool that youth in the system can use when advocating for themselves. The Navigating Multiple Systems (NMS) Initiative is a statewide, collaborative project led by the Council on Children and Families with initial grant funding from New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.  YP! and Families Together are partners in this initiative.  We need your help in designing the NMS tool.


In order to reach the most young people possible, YP! requests Youth Advisory Councils and Peer Groups complete this survey as a focus group.


If you facilitate a youth group and are interested in conducting a focus group for us, click  here to download the Facilitator's Guide. Click here to download a paper version of the youth and young adult survey.  Click  here to download mailing labels to return the printed survey. Please return printed surveys by November 22, 2013.


If you are a parent, your input is valuable too. We have a separate survey for you as well.


For general information about the Navigating Multiple Systems initiative, contact Zach Garafalo, YP! Assistant Director at (518) 432-0333 ext. 26 or
November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month!

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, over 1.6 million children and youth are homeless at some point during their lives. Along with losing their home, community, and friends, as well as their safety, many homeless youth are also victims of trauma. While trying to survive on the streets, youth are exposed to many dangers, with increased odds of substance abuse, early parenthood, suicide, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Homeless youth face stigmas and stereotypes that only further complicate their lives and make it more difficult for them to survive.  This can cause youth to become distrustful and afraid of adults in their lives, and to lose hope that things will get better for them.


This is a good opportunity for anyone to do research on ways you can help homeless youth, not only to survive, but to provide and spread hope. Volunteering in your community is one good way of doing this. Also consider that the holidays are approaching, and donations, as well as holiday cards and other items, are in need this time of year more than any other.

If you are or know of a homeless youth, there are many resources available for you, including drop-in centers, homeless shelters, and hospitals. There is also a list of resources available in New York.
It is important to remember that some young people identify with homefree communities and that those particular situations should not be viewed in the same lense as we view traditional homelessness. 
Peer Leader Highlight: Nicole Giambalvo 

Nicole. GiambalvoYOUTH POWER! is highlighting a peer leader who is active in the Long Island community. Nicole Giambalvo is the Nassau County Family Support System of Care Youth Engagement Specialist. You can read an excerpt of the article in the eNews. A link to the full article is here


1. What do you believe to be your greatest accomplishments while working as the Youth Engagement Specialist in Nassau County?


One thing that I feel has made a huge impact on youth-guided care in Nassau County is my having a seat at the Nassau County SPOA meetings. I have served as a youth advocate for youth being placed outside of the home. I feel that being able to support the youth who represent themselves at SPOA in advocating for their needs is a very important accomplishment.


2. Why do you come to work every day? What do you love about your position?


I come to work every day because I truly believe in the principles of youth-guided care and youth empowerment within the mental health system. I love being able to work with youth and young people. The resilience of Nassau County youth truly inspires me.


3. How has your role helped you grow personally and professionally?


My role has led me to pursue a second master's degree in social work (MSW). Previously, I always knew I wanted to work with children, youth, and young adults, but didn't really have a sense of what exactly I wanted to do. Working in both a direct-service and administrative capacity at Nassau County Family Support System of Care (NCFSSOC) has shown me what changes I can make within young people's lives through hard work and dedication.


4. What battles do we still need to fight to make sure all children and youth get the support they need in New York's child serving systems?


I think that education about what youth empowerment and youth-guided care principles really mean and can look like within child-serving systems is the first step to achieve the goals of the movement. I also think that more youth should have access to and be involved in advocacy trainings.


To read full article, click here. 


This interview was conducted by Desiree Moore, Long Island Regional Youth Partner. She can be reached by phone: 631-245-528 or by email at:

New York State Success Kicks Off Year Two of System of Care Expansion

by Melanie Hecker

Melanie Hecker, Youth Engagement Consultant On October 30th 2013, The New York State Success Team welcomed 10 new counties to the Upstate New York Systems of Care Expansion. Systems of Care is the philosophy that the child serving systems such as Mental Health, Foster Care, and Juvenile Justice should communicate, cooperate, and coordinate with child-serving resources such as schools, communities, etc. and each other. The System of Care philosophy also means systems being family-driven, youth guided, sensitive to cultural differences, and based on people's strengths. 


The Upstate New York System of Care Expansion Grant seeks to put this philosophy in place in all 55 Upstate counties in four years, and this effort is spearheaded by the New York State Success Team, a team consisting of professionals as well as family and youth representatives.


Starting this fall, Rockland from the Hudson River Region, Broome, Cayuga, and Otego from the Central Region, and Genesee, Livingston, Niagara, Ontario, and Yates from the Western Region will be working toward fully implementing Systems of Care in their communities. To introduce the representatives from these counties to the System of Care philosophy and help them develop "game plans," New York State Success held an all-day event at the Genesee Grand Hotel in Syracuse. 


This kickoff event started with the Keynote presentation systems of care graduates from Rhode Island. These Rhode Island presenters, a family representative and a youth representative, told their stories and how a System of Care community can work and really be successful. In addition to these presentations, Mary Coppola, New York State Success Project Director, and Tricia Snyder, Manager of Technical Assistance, gave an overview of New York State Success and what our team can offer to the counties of Upstate New York. After a morning of presentations and panels, members of the New York State Success Team were able to network with each county over lunch. The new counties each had a handful of important people come to the event, and representatives from a few year one and "mentor" counties came as well. Being able to mingle gave the representatives from these counties a better idea of what Systems of Care and New York State Success is all about. 


When lunch was over, each county got together for the "Breakout Sessions". In these breakout sessions, the individual counties came up with strategic plans and goals for the following year, aided by a New York State Success team facilitator, a family representative, and a youth representative. Counties then designed posters around their vision for their future and gave 90 second reports on what they decided they would plan and aim for.  The event ended with a bang as I personally delivered my poem about Systems of Care published in the previous eNews. Also presented by me was the unveiling of YOUTH POWER!'s very own Youth Involvement Toolkit. This toolkit will help the counties in recruiting and engaging youth over long periods of time.


To learn more about Systems of Care or if you would like to help us edit the Youth Involvement Toolkit, please contact Melanie at or 518-432-0333 ext 31.

OMH Conducting Meetings about Justice Center Investigations

OMH's Clinical Risk Management staff will be conducting regional Go-To Meetings on Justice Center Investigative Standards. The training will provide an overview of the process for conducting an investigation that will be in compliance with the investigative standards required by the Office of Mental Health and the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs.


Staff who will be directly conducting, or directly supervising individuals conducting investigations, should attend this training. In order to allow for an opportunity for participants to ask questions and understand the process, these training sessions will be limited to 30 participants at a time. Multiple sessions will be provided based on regional need.


The Go-To Meetings will be held on the following dates and times:


Date:                                      Time:                                       Region:

11/18/13                     9:30 am - 11:30 am                 Long Island Region   

11/18/13                     1 pm - 3 pm                            Western NY Region

11/21/13                     9:30 am - 11:30 am                 Central NY Region

11/25/13                     9 am - 12:30 pm           (live training at the NYC Field Office

                                                                                         for 35 people)      

11/25/13                     1 pm - 3 pm                            Hudson River Region

11/26/13                     10 am - 12 pm                        Hudson River Region


To register contact Daniel Haynes at 518-474-3619 or email him at with your Name, Title, Agency, Phone number and Email address. 

Update: Regional Centers of Excellence 

New York State Office of Mental Health Logo

NYS is in the midst of systems transformation. The state is moving away from costly institutionalization (meaning people receive services outside of their communities) and toward a model where people can be active participants in their communities while continuing to receive the services they need. The Regional Centers of Excellence reform that the state is enacting is under way. The plan is to close and reduce in scale the inpatient hospital system. The plan calls for the closing of many state facilities and transforming them in to Centers of Excellence. With reduction of inpatient services, the state has promised both those who use the services and the employees that these services will be replaced in the form of outpatient community based services. 


Currently, there is youth voice on the five Regional Centers of Excellence teams. YP! will continue to ensure that the youth voice is actively represented on each of these teams and that the messages are transmitted to the state level. 


YP! seeks a unified system within local communities, has the ability to adapt and promote recovery and resiliency for families and youth.


Contact your regional youth partner to share your perspectives and increase youth voice in the transformation process.


RYP contact information 

Governor Cuomo Signs Bill Allowing Families Access to Records of People Who Were Abused in State Care

On Tuesday October 22, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that will allow the families of those abused in state facilities for the disabled to have access to the abuse reports. Since Jonathan's law was passed in 2007 the state has been required to make reports of all incidents of abuse. However most of these have been sealed as "confidential" or "do not disclose."


This prevented families of the victims from ever pressing charges on the abuser or getting justice. Without these it made it hard to even report the cases to law enforcement. Many repeat offenders were likely let off the hook. A co-sponsor, Harvey Heisenberg, an assembly democrat from Long Island said on the issue "This type of secrecy is never good for public policy."


YOUTH POWER! welcomes this as a step in the right direction but continues to call on state services to increase the use of calming tools, healing environments and trauma informed practice in New York State. We will work to ensure that restraint and seclusion reduction and elimination is a priority across all systems. These traumatizing and dangerous practices must end. YP! supports the use of comfort and sensory tools in all children's' settings, standardizing trainings and reporting requirements across all systems and mandating reporting of restraint and seclusion instances in all state licensed programs. 


YP! urges increased funding for trauma informed care trainings in the Office of Mental Health, the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, the Office of Children and Family Services and the New York State Education Department.


To learn more about YP!'s advocacy priorities, contact the Systems Advocate at or at (518) 432-0333 ext. 14.  

Fifty Years Later: Can We Learn Anything from the Community Mental Health Act?
by Brett McMullin

President Kennedy signing the Community Mental Health Act into Law Fifty years ago shortly before his death, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act. The goal of the act was to shut down state hospitals and bring mental health services into the community. They planned to build 1500 community mental health treatment centers across the country. This would have provided millions of people with the ability to live normal lives in their communities.


Unfortunately, after Kennedy's death the Act was never fully funded and only about half of the centers were built and those that were built never got the promised funds. States hurting for cash still closed the hospitals under the plan. 90% percent of state hospital beds have been closed. The problem is that little to no outside services have been created to replace them so in most places in the country jails have become the main provider of mental health care.


As the funding for community programs was never given, people are often released on to the street with no support. They usually end up homeless or in jail. While this act is a starting point we still have a lot of work to do. We must get funding for these services that were promised.


Today in New York the government is rolling out a similar initiative in the same way that the Community Mental Health Act sought to bring people out of hospitals and into the community. This is the Regional Centers of Excellence and the plan has preserved the same main flaw. There is no guarantee that there will be funding for community services kept in the plan. If this funding is not passed there will be a similar result to that of the community mental health act. If we only end up with people on the streets or in jails we will not have succeeded.


Brett McMullin is the Systems Advocate for YOUTH POWER!. This article reflects the views of the author only and does not necessarily represent the views of YP! or the Board of Directors.

Bully: A Bleak, Realistic Look at a World We Try To Ignore  

By Colleen Deitrich

Bully Movie PosterBully: A Film Review


When 'Bully' first came out, it received a lot of criticism. Among the most common issues people had with the film: It was too violent. It was too harsh. It was too slanted towards the victims. It wasn't suitable for its target audience. It antagonizes adults.


But does it really do all of these things?


The documentary follows several families and youth, all of whom bullying has touched in some way or another. Two families have youth who are constantly bullied at school. Two families have youth who completed suicide after the bullying went too far. One family had a girl who was driven to an extreme measure to try and fight back those who taunted her: by bringing a gun onto a bus, leading to her arrest and placement in a psychiatric hospital.


The film does not spare any details in documenting these young peoples' lives. In one of the more disturbing scenes from the film, one young boy is stabbed on the bus ride home by a bully with a pen, before having his head bashed against the window. Later, when student witnesses are asked about the event, most don't know what to say. As a result, the bully is given a warning and let off. The main authority figure in the film is a vice principal, who consistently seems at a loss for how to appropriately handle the bullying situations in school. One scene shows her forcing a bullied youth to shake hands with his bully. He refuses, and after he does, the woman begins to yell at him for not shaking the hand of his tormentor.


Some might feel that the portrayal of adults in the film is unfair, especially with the vice principal. However, in the case of Bully, it's simply telling the story how it happened. There is no voice-over narration. All of the stories are told solely from the people involved: bullies, bullied, families, friends, and school staff. In this way, it feels harder to believe that an anti-staff bias is the result. Instead, it is a testimony to how promoting anti-bullying trainings for youth and adults benefits everyone, and could have prevented a lot of the terrible things that happened to the youth in this film.


Although this film is rated PG-13 I would recommend 'Bully' to anyone who is affected by this issue: youth, adults, school staff, and advocates. There are some disturbing scenes in the film, so if you want to take a child under the age of ten, let them know ahead of time what they are going to be watching. Be aware that some scenes may trigger some youth, so be sure to provide a quiet room away from the film, or the ability to pause it, should someone need time to emotionally prepare themselves. 


States Get Millions to Transition Young People with Disabilities Off SSI

SSA logo Nearly a dozen states are getting a share of more than $200 million to help improve the long-term prospects of kids with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income.


Demonstration projects in states across the country are being developed to offer coordinated services and supports for children receiving SSI benefits with an eye toward enhancing their education and employment prospects.


Ultimately, the federal effort known as the Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income, or PROMISE, initiative is designed to reduce the number of kids on SSI who continue to rely on such benefits as adults.


"All children deserve a chance to achieve their educational and career goals," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "The PROMISE initiative provides services and support to help our most at-risk students and their families so that they can focus on their education and a brighter future."


Specifically, the demonstration projects will provide support to SSI recipients and their families so the children can graduate high school, complete postsecondary education and job training and find competitive employment, officials said.


The initiative is a joint effort of the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services.


Federal grants totaling over $211 million were awarded for the five-year initiative to Arkansas, California, Maryland, New York and Wisconsin in addition to a consortium of states comprised of Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado and Arizona.

Apply for Your Chance To Be A World Traveler


Make the world your classroom! Expand your opportunities by studying in another country on one of these scholarship programs. Applicants representing the diversity of the United States, including students with disabilities, are encouraged to apply!


Youth Exchange and Study Abroad (YES Abroad) - Study in local high schools and live with host families in countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Balkans. Deadline:January 9, 2014. Learn more:¬ 


Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX)- Spend an academic year in Germany living with a host family and attending a German school. Attend a four- to eight-week orientation and language camp. This program is open to high school students (ages 15-18), graduating seniors of vocational studies (age 18), and young professionals (undergraduates ages 18-24). Deadline: December 1, 2013. Learn more:


Youth Leadership Programs - Travel abroad for three to four weeks to gain firsthand knowledge of foreign cultures and collaborate on solving global issues. Current programs operate in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Some programs draw from a national applicant pool while others are limited to a region or group of states. You may have the opportunity to host an exchange participant as well as travel abroad. Deadlines vary. Learn more:


Contact Mobility International USA for tips or other opportunities for participating in international exchange with a disability by visiting or  



Attention Foster Youth, Former Foster Youth, and the Affordable Care Act

Foster Club LogoFosterClub is the national network of young people in foster care. FosterClub is conducting a survey about the Affordable Care Act's impact on foster youth.  To find out what young people know and how FosterClub should help, we are putting out a survey, which we'd love your help distributing to young people/taking yourself if you are under age 26.  This is SUPER time sensitive as we've only got a couple of months to act!

Please click here.

Members of Congress Back Presidential Youth Council

spark action logo Recently, 16 members of Congress joined Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) in backing a resolution to establish a Presidential Youth Council to advise the President of the United States on policies affecting young people. The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and SparkAction, a division of the Forum for Youth Investment, have teamed up on the cause. Find out about the campaign and show your support for the resolution. 


The Board of Directors of YOUTH POWER! has endorsed the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council. In the letter of support, the Board urged the Campaign to designate seats for people with disabilities and experience in state systems such as foster care, mental health and juvenile justice. This will ensure that a diverse cross section of youth and young adults from across the United States is represented.

Lloyd Sederer, MD: Chief Medical Officer at OMH Pens Essay About Changing Mental Health System
Psychology Today Logo

LIoyd I Sederer, MD, Chief Medical Officer at the New York State Office of Mental Health recently wrote an article for Psychology Today called 'Therapy, It's More Than Just Talk.' In the article Dr. Sederer talks about transforming the mental health system so that there are more community supports, the system is person centered and that it is less reliant on forced hospitalizations and coercion. Dr. Sederer recognizes how dehumanizing it can be for people who are involuntarily committed.  

Get Help Finding Affordable Insurance

nyc health insurance link The city is offering an online resource to help you find affordable health insurance. NYC Health Insurance Link provides information on plans from every insurance company in NYC. Users will also find information on health insurance basics, including changes that will happen under health reform legislation between now and 2014.


See More Information Here>>>

Free Legal Help for Youth

The Door logo The Door's Legal Services Center is offering free legal consultations on criminal law issues. Is there a warrant out for your arrest? Trying to reach your public defender? Need to get your rap sheet? The lawyers at The Door can provide free and confidential help. 


To make an appointment, contact Sara at (212) 941-9090 x3280 or


Located at 555 Broome Street in Manhattan, The Door is a youth services center for people ages 12-21. 


To read more about legal services The Door provides, click here

Guides to college for people with disabilities and their loved ones

New York Urban League Logo The New York Urban League's free Parent's Guide to College is designed for caregivers of students who are the first generation in their family to attend college. The guide looks at college preparation from entering 9th grade through senior year of high school, as well as examining local options of the CUNY and SUNY system and black colleges. This guide will help parents, foster parents, and other caring adults take an active role in helping teens get a college education. 




A Practical Guide for People With Disabilities Who Want to Go to College
is a 35-page booklet with basic college information, plus information on getting supports while in college, managing your disability in college, and getting a job.
Free Online Training for NYC High School Educators

NYC Department of Education Logo The New York City Department of Education (DOE) in collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is offering a free professional development opportunity for staff who work in DOE schools. All high school teachers and allied professionals who work with youth in a school building can access a free online training course, "At-Risk for High School Educators." The training will teach you how to identify, approach, and refer students who show signs of psychological distress.


See More>>

Job Opportunity: Youth Advocate in Brooklyn

Logo: Institute for Community Living Location: Brooklyn, NY 

Exempt/Non-Exempt: Non-Exempt 
Employment Type: Part Time (20 hours per week)
Job Classification CategorySocial Service
The Youth Advocate will provide needed support to SED (Severely Emotionally Disturbed) children who are currently residing in Brooklyn. The aim of the support provided is to help lessen the stress, confusion, failure and embarrassment often experienced by these children as well as to work to change their social isolation and helplessness. 


1. Develop, implement and lead youth support groups.
2. Provide assistance and support to children in accessing services (schools, hospitals, child welfare, mental health agencies, entitlements, etc.)
3. Collaborate with outside providers, networks and other related systems on behalf of youth served.
4. Represent ICL at relevant government and provider meetings, as required.
5. Maintain documentation that is compliant with all governmental and agency standards and procedures.
6. Other job-related responsibilities as assigned.


No minimum education required. Past recipient of child mental health services. Appreciation of the demands and pressure that affect SED children and their family. Knowledge of the benefits and challenges of being a mental health consumer. Candidate must be a youth between the ages of 16-24 years old and had a prior SED diagnosis.


Interested candidates, please submit your application. 
YOUTH POWER! is the New York State network of young people who have been labeled and are seeking change.  Together, we have decided to speak up about our experiences because no one knows what it is like for us better than we do.  Through peer-to-peer mentoring, we empower young people to be active citizens who are aware of government operations, their rights and the ability to use their voices to influence policies, practices, regulations and laws.  We are young people helping other people, ensuring availability of self-help and peer support while changing systems so that young people get the support they need with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Nothing About Us Without Us!    @YOUTHPOWERNY