For anyone who is struggling with mental health issues, you are not alone. There is help out there.

Northeast Youth and Family Services (NYFS) is one of those places. The community-based, trauma-informed, mental health and human services nonprofit organization has been serving the communities of suburban Ramsey County for 45 years.

The nonprofit’s mission is creating a better tomorrow for youth, adults and families in our community. The organization offers three programs—Community Advocate Program, Senior Chore Program and Youth Diversion.

“On the mental health side of things, we have two outpatient clinics—one in White Bear Lake and one in Shoreview. These are mental health services for all ages,” NYFS President and CEO Tara Jebens-Singh said. “We have partnerships with three school districts—Roseville, Mounds View and White Bear Lake, and we have therapists embedded within 17 different school buildings.”

The Senior Chore Program enables older adults to age independently within the community. The program serves those who are 60 years old and older who live in one of the communities NYFS serves. Youth or adult workers are paired with seniors who need indoor or outdoor work done around the house or in their yards.

During COVID-19, NYFS recognized there was a need to reach people, especially seniors, who were feeling isolated in their own homes.

“As part of COVID, we added telephone reassurance calls to help with reducing isolation due to COVID,” Jebens-Singh said. “We also created more educational resources on our website with outreach videos and testimonials as a way to create greater awareness during this time.”

The Youth Diversion Program partners with local police departments, school districts and the Ramsey County Attorney General’s Office. “This allows kids to have a pathway outside of traditional criminal justice for first-time or minor infractions like graffiti, truancy and things like that,” Jebens-Singh said.

NYFS receives a number of grants to support mental health professionals (school-based therapists) embedded within the local school districts. These professionals are invited by the school districts to partner with them, and they work with the school community to support educators in that school. They are also able to identify students who would benefit from mental health services.

“Because of the funding that we have, the intention is to reduce any barriers for students to obtain mental health services. Those barriers include time, transportation, insurance or cost of services,” Jebens-Singh said. “School is where they are interacting with their peers and are either thriving or struggling within the social environments. That's where people can identify whether they would need additional support. It’s within that supportive community that kids are getting the help they need.”

NYFS’s newest program (now in its second year) is the Community Advocacy Program. It  partners with five suburban police departments—in Roseville, White Bear Lake, St. Anthony Village, New Brighton and Mounds View.

According to Jebens-Singh, this program serves people who have been involved with local law enforcement and have needs that cannot be sufficiently addressed by law enforcement alone. This can include mental health issues, family instability, medical care and other needs. Addressing these underlying issues reduces the need for law enforcement intervention in the future.

“When law enforcement is interacting with individuals that would best be served by different kinds of care, they will refer those individuals to our community advocate, who can then get them connected to either housing support, mental health or chemical dependency programs,” Jebens-Singh said. “What’s exciting about this program is it was actually initiated by our law enforcement partners who recognized they were being called into situations that were best served by a social worker or mental health professional.”

NYFS offers services for all economic situations and are supported by 15 local municipalities, including Shoreview, Hugo, White Bear Lake, White Bear Township, North Oaks, Mounds View, Mahtomedi and Vadnais Heights.

“These municipalities invest in NYFS because they believe their communities are better by having these resources available to their community members,” Jebens-Singh said. “That’s important, because we’re truly here because the community has said, ‘these are essential services that individuals should have access to.’”

To learn more about Northeast Youth & Family Services, visit www.nyfs.org.

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