New Mental Health Clinic Provides Grief Care For Rural Residents

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — A new mental health clinic opened in Coopers Plains last month in a partnership between Family Services of Chemung County and CareFirst.

The Clinic at CareFirst is one of the only specialized mental health providers in Steuben County. It offers counseling services to residents of Steuben, Schuyler and Chemung counties who are coping with advanced illness or grieving the loss of a loved one.

Chelsea Ambrose, Director of Counseling and Collaborative Services at CareFirst, says these counties see some of the highest mental health needs in Central New York, but access to specialized care is limited.

“The county mental health provider systems that we have, I think just there aren’t enough resources to adequately serve the mental health needs in our community,” Ambrose said.

Studies show the risk of mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety, is elevated for caregivers.

With frequent trips to hospitals and hospice care facilities, many of the Clinic’s clients juggle everyday stressors that come with advanced illness or loss.

“It really isn’t post-traumatic anything. It’s really peri-traumatic stress. They’re in it,” said Holly Prigerson, Director of the Center for Research on End-of-Life Care at Cornell University. “I don’t know if it’s traumatic, per se, but it’s extremely stressful and upsetting.”

According to Prigerson, because these unique life experiences are traumatic, many clients avoid dealing with their experiences all together. For this reason, The Clinic takes a trauma-informed approach in its counseling to educate clients and address the vulnerability they may feel.

“There’s a lot of stigma around death and dying in general and around mental health,” Ambrose said. “So, while on one hand this is definitely a service that I think is very needed in our community, and we really did this because we had people telling us that they needed it, on the other hand, I think that talking about these issues is something that is often incredibly difficult and stressful for people.”

Since grief, illness and loss are universal, The Clinic serves clients from age 4 to 94 and all walks of life.

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