Mental Health Association newsletter describes collaborations | News, Sports, Jobs

Chautauqua County Mental Health Association (MHA) staff Liz Witherspoon (left) and Jessica Crooks are navigators for Strong Starts Chautauqua, a life-saving initiative designed to help pregnant women and young children. It emerged from a collaboration of almost three dozen partners, as described in the MHA’s most recent newsletter.

The collaboration of 32 agencies and schools across the county has produced Strong Starts Chautauqua.

Chautauqua County has the fourth highest child poverty rate in New York State. It includes less than one percent of the state’s population, but accounts for 10% of state allegations of drug or alcohol abuse by parents.

Substance abuse by the mother during pregnancy can lead to learning difficulties and low IQ, hyperactivity, poor communication skills, and poor thinking and judgment. Lifelong consequences can include school and social skills, mental health, drug use, staying in a job, and trouble with the law.

Strong Starts Chautauqua, an initiative to support pregnant women and young children, has two goals:

¯ All expectant women in Chautauqua County have access to prenatal education, care, and community support to promote healthy birth outcomes and a strong future for their children, and

¯ that all children, aged five and under, have access to the resources and timely, responsible care that will help them reach their full potential.

Last fall, the Mental Health Association added two new recovery coaches to serve as Strong Starts navigators. Liz Witherspoon and Jessica Crooks joined Allison Murphy and Dorothy Carlson, two MHA coaches who already work with mothers. As navigators, the coaches accompany mothers through pregnancy and childbed and later get help for their children. As the first county in the state to take this approach, Chautauqua County has developed a strategy that could become a model for New York State and the country as a whole.

The Mental Health Association also participates in the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation’s Give Big CHQ. To donate, visit and search for the Mental Health Association.

Steven Cobb, executive director of the Mental Health Association, said a recent grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission gave a boost to the MHA’s Occupational Peer Empowerment Network (OPEN) program. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown and the MHA are working together on a new social enterprise to serve as a training ground for participants.

“Father Bernard’s blessed biscuits will be on the market soon, so stay tuned”, said Cobb. “There will be more news!”

Another newsletter story describes Luis Rosa, MHA’s Inaugural Peer of the Year 2020, and the contribution he has made to helping people on their journey to recovery, especially in the Hispanic community.

Other news includes the donation of a van from UPMC Chautauqua, online narcan training for the Cassadaga Job Corps Center and the Jamestown Community Learning Council, and connections with the Jamestown Police Department’s Project Crossroads and Outpour Project.

Some of the more than three dozen groups that meet at the MHA are mentioned, such as Crystal Meth Anonymous, AA and NA, #MeToo, Southern Tier Queer Peers, Knitting for Wellbeing, Art in Recovery, PTSD, Suicide Prevention, Master Your Money, Relapse Prevention, and Recreational Dharma.

To access the MHA spring newsletter online, go to

For a printed copy, visit Gateway Building Door 14, 31 Water Street, Jamestown, call (716) 661-9044, or email

With programs in Jamestown and Dunkirk, the Chautauqua County’s Mental Health Association is a peer recovery center providing support groups and one-on-one coaching for people looking to improve their lives, deepen their wellbeing, thrive in recovery, or support those on the path to recovery . Peers use their personal stories to help people find recovery in their own lives in their own way.

All services provided by the Mental Health Association are free.

To learn more about the Mental Health Association, call 661-9044 or visit or

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