Mental Health Services Extend to Southold; Talk on Short-Term Rentals Postponed

Southold Historical Society Complex
The Southold Historical Society Complex

Southold’s mental health workers will have a chance to help deal with crisis mental health situations on the East End as part of a new network of emergency mental health services spurred on by three teen suicides on the South Fork in the past several years.

Dr. Larry Weiss and Robyn Berger-Gatson of the Family Service League asked the Southold Town Board to help provide training to school psychologists and other public mental health professionals using International Critical Incident Stress Foundation guidelines.

The town would pay $125 for the training sessions, and would provide a place to host them and refreshments for attendees.

“Our number one priority for the East End is to try to develop behavioral heath services for youth,” said Dr. Weiss. “We want to help the town develop a team of professionals who go in in an a crisis situation.”

The program would be offered to mental health professionals who have at least masters-level degrees, and could accommodate up to 30 professionals, who would agree to be part of a network of caregivers who are on-call to help respond to mental health emergencies.

Dr. Weiss said that until state funding was made available last year for Family Service League to offer emergency mental health services on the South Fork, students in distress were often taken in handcuffs in the back of a police car to the psychiatric emergency room at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

“Ninety-nine percent of people who go to the psychiatric emergency room are returned home,” said Dr. Weiss. “It serves nothing for the child except to make them more agitated, and to put them in a car in handcuffs is not good.”

Dr. Weiss said Family Service League had responded to 42 suicide-related calls in 2014 and more than two dozen calls for communities dealing with trauma. Prior to hiring extra staff for emergencies, he said, people who needed counseling services often had to wait months for their first appointment.

He said if students are experiencing crises in their lives, they need to be given the tools to cope with stress early, before their condition becomes so ingrained that it is diagnosable as a psychological disorder.

“You call a mental health clinic and you’re on a waiting list. It’s not what we want to do,” he said. “If you call the emergency resource center, we’re there the next day.”

Short-Term Rental Debate Will Continue at a Later Date

The Southold Town Board didn’t discuss the ongoing debate over short-term rentals in town at Tuesday morning’s work session — Town Supervisor Scott Russell said his office overlooked putting it on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting and he didn’t want to hold a public discussion without public notice.

The board plans to take the issue up again at their April 21 meeting. They’re still trying to hash out whether the definition of “short-term” in any new local law will be fewer than 14 days or fewer than seven days, said Mr. Russell.

Ditching the Renewable Surcharge

Southold Town agreed way back in 2004 to pay a surcharge on its electric bill through LIPA’s “Green Choice” program to support renewable energy.

The surcharge — which cost the town $9,500 in 2014, was designed to encourage LIPA to purchase energy from renewable sources.

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Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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