Having lost its United Way funding last year, Larchmont Mamaroneck Community Counseling Center's (LMCCC) already precarious position is on even rockier ground with a $20,000 proposed cut from the Mamaroneck School District's budget. That, in conjunction with potential additional cuts in funding from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) means that the LMCCC's future in uncertain.
With $550,255 in total operating expenses, the LMCCC is completely dependent on nearly half that money ($238,533) to come from its OASAS grant, which it has received for more than 30 years, explained LMCCC executive director Dr. Mark Levy. The good news is that the Center was deemed a "core quality program" by the State, and was spared cuts during the last sweep nine months ago; Levy is hopeful they will be spared again. A deadline for a finalized New York State budget was set for this week, but is now expected to be delayed again.
The proposed school budget cuts will be of concern to many area parents with adolescent children, as most of LMCCC's work is done through the Hommocks Middle School, according to Levy. These life-skills and prevention programs are essential to help children avoid substance abuse and other high-risk behaviors by reaching them early on.
A staff counselor shared the story of a 14-year-old boy she is working with who has been involved with drug and alcohol from an early age. "The earlier you start, the more likely you are to develop dependence," the counselor said. "Early intervention can make more of an impact."
Another counselor is working with an adolescent that was referred to the Center by a peer who was also receiving help there. This individual had dropped out of school, and the parents were not able to help as they were heavy abusers, too.
"He had no support system, no connection to school or his parents," the counselor explained. "We are helping him get reconnected."
To help keep such programs alive, Dr. Levy and the Center's Board of Directors will be meeting over the coming weeks to try to find other ways to raise funds. While Levy appealed to the boards of the three municipalities for additional financial help, he expects the Village of Larchmont and Town of Mamaroneck's contributions to be flat to last year; he was still waiting to hear from the Village of Mamaroneck.
Already operating from a nearly $80,ooo deficit, the LMCCC looks to make up that difference from the community and through its board of directors' fundraising campaigns. However, when the Mamaroneck school board adopts the proposed budget on April 20th (the public vote is May 18th), that deficit could become a six figure problem to manage.
"We're facing very challenging fiscal times," he said. "We need the help of the community now more than ever. We were created by and for this community, and have quietly and successfully served it for more than three decades. We have seen thousands of children and families, literally saving a number of lives. This is a moment in our existence when we are reaching back to the community for their support."
The public, non-profit center was created in the 1970s by the three municipalities and the Mamaroneck School District "to provide a safe haven of support for local youth and families," said Levy. Having worked at the center for 20 years, he remains optimistic that, through its partnership with the community, they will find a solution.
In addition to school prevention programs, LMCCC offers individual and family counseling and therapy, parent programs, crisis intervention, consultation and referral services, and training programs for interns. The center does not take insurance, but services are provided on a low sliding scale and can be free if needed. "We turn no one away from our door," Levy emphasized.
The LMCCC is forging ahead with its next group meetings, to begin in late April or early May. The Staying Connected with Your Teen workshops – a series of five two-hour sessions – will be led by the Center's assistant director, Robbie Seidman, and Dr. Alan Dienstag, supervising psychologist.
In addition, a women's support group is now being formed, led by licensed clinical social worker Jenifer McLaughlin. The purpose of the group is to provide a safe place for women to be heard regarding the challenges they face relating to children, family and friends. The group will meet in the morning once a week and the cost is $10 per session.
"We're flexible in providing whatever the community needs," Levy said. "We're very accessible, and are available 24 hours a day through our answering service."
LMCCC is located at 234 Stanley Ave. Mamaroneck; 914-698-7549.