South Oaks Hospital, a 202-bed psychiatric hospital that is part...

South Oaks Hospital, a 202-bed psychiatric hospital that is part of the Northwell Health network. is located at 400 Sunrise Hwy. in Amityville. Credit: Google Maps

A $4.85 million state grant recently awarded to South Oaks Hospital in Amityville will allow it to expand mental health services to children ages 5 and older up to young adults as old as age 21, with plans to set up a new facility on the East End.

"When we take a look at how the services are spread across the Island, particularly in Suffolk County, particularly in eastern Suffolk, while there are services, they are limited," said Michael Scarpelli, executive director of South Oaks Hospital, a 202-bed psychiatric hospital that is part of the Northwell Health network. "What we wanted to do, not only from South Oaks, but Northwell, is to be able to bring more mental health services to the East End of Long Island."

Scarpelli said the vast geography of Suffolk County might mean some families had to travel many miles to get to a treatment facility. It is also clear, he said, that more services are needed. 

The state grant — out of nearly $40 million awarded to several Long Island facilities to enhance "essential healthcare services" — is for The Long Island Home, the legal name for South Oaks, which was founded as a long-stay sanitarium in the 1880s. However, Scarpelli said, "people in the community don't know what that is," he said of the home. "We're known in the community as South Oaks Hospital."

The grant will enable South Oaks to construct a facility to house an outpatient clinic and partial hospitalization programs for "at risk youth/adolescents in crisis with mental health services in Suffolk County."

The hospital is looking to locate a building, which it then plans to renovate, Scarpelli said. "Right now we don’t have a site selected, but we are looking around the Riverhead market." He said he hoped the new facility would be operational by year's end or early next year.

"We’re seeing probably one in five individuals have some type of mental health diagnosis, unfortunately, of at least depression and anxiety in school-age children, according to the National Institute of Mental Health," Scarpelli said.

"One of the things that we heard loud and clear from our community partners and our schools was there are resources, but it’s limited," Scarpelli said. "They have a lot of challenges getting into care and services. One of the most important things we’re trying to do is enhance access to mental health services on Long Island, particularly of the child and adolescent population."

The partial hospitalization program planned for the new facility, Scarpelli said, is focused on adolescents ages 13 to 17, and would involve them coming to the facility Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"The idea is we have a structured day and school is involved for the youngsters in treatment, " Scarpelli said. Schooling would be provided in partnership with BOCES. "They still live in the community, even though it says hospitalization program, they get dropped off at the program and then they get picked up."

The outpatient therapy and medication management is for children and young adults ages 5 to 21. Although there was no limit on the number of youngsters served, it would be affected by how many psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, nurse practitioners, social workers and other specialists could be hired.

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