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East Hampton town, schools start teen mental health, drug task force

East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez discussed the

East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez discussed the formation of the town's Adolescent Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force at a town board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1. (Credit: Newsday / Vera Chinese)

East Hampton town and school officials, and community leaders have created a task force to explore ways to handle mental health issues and substance abuse among teens.

The Adolescent Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force met for the first time Jan. 26 and is to meet once a month. East Hampton High School Principal Adam Fine serves as its chair.

The group will discuss educating parents, ensuring mental health services are available, and promoting effective prevention strategies.

“It’s a multiprong approach,” said town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, one of the group’s founders. “We are just getting started.”

Residents of East Hampton face unique challenges in seeking mental health treatment because of the area’s geography, demographics and lack of affordable housing.

Although there are several therapists working in the town, there is no child psychiatrist based in East Hampton, Burke-Gonzalez said. However, telepsychiatry services are now available, she said.

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