What are the most pressing mental health care needs in St. Lawrence County, New York? Local researchers have organized a study, funded through a research fellowship awarded last spring, to investigate the public’s perceptions of the county’s mental health care services and availability.
Led by Elizabeth Pienkos, Psy.D., assistant professor of psychology at Clarkson University, the researchers are recruiting participants for two focus groups to explore the perceptions of mental health care and services, as well as investigate the unmet mental health care needs of the county.
If selected, participants will be required to participate in two meetings – the first will last two hours and the second one hour. The study group, consisting of between six and eight individuals, will be asked about their experiences related to mental health and mental health care.
To be eligible to participate in the study, individuals must:
- be at least 18 years of age;
- have needed help with a mental health crisis or emergency; and
- have accessed mental health services in St. Lawrence County in the past year.
Participants will undergo an initial screening process to ensure eligibility and availability for the focus groups. If selected, participants will be compensated for their time, receiving $12 an hour for a maximum of $36 for completing all three hours of the focus group. They will be asked about their mental health needs, their experiences with local services and resources and their perceptions of additional community needs.
Funding for the study is being provided by the T. Urling and Mabel Walker Research Fellowship, which was awarded to Dr. Pienkos last spring. The project is intended to address the gap in knowledge between existing services and community needs.
Dr. Pienkos hopes her study will draw attention to a crucial, but often overlooked aspect of well-being in St. Lawrence County and support the development of new, targeted services for community members. While several new mental health initiatives have been introduced in the county, high rates of inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations and mental health-related emergency rooms visits still exist. She anticipates being able to determine which services and supports are necessary to decrease the use of emergency services on the way to improving overall mental health and reducing the likelihood of crisis situations.
“I want to learn about what is most important to people who utilize mental health services to achieve their recovery goals and to share what is learned with local clinicians, administrators and officials,” Dr. Pienkos said. “My goal is that the data from this project will reflect the needs and values of the people who use these services and help to shape program development and strengthen future requests for funding.”
To be considered for the focus group please contact Liz Pienkos at 315-268-2331 or [email protected] prior to November 14. Individuals wanting to take part in this study will be asked several questions to ensure eligibility and availability. They will be informed later of exact dates and times of the focus groups. Groups are expected to meet sometime in November and December. Results are expected to be presented to the community late next year.
The T. Urling and Mabel Walker Research Fellowship program was in established in 1994. The purpose of the program is to encourage faculty from the region’s 11 institutions of higher learning to undertake research on critical issues confronting North Country communities and to make recommendations for potential solutions. It is designed to promote greater community-academic cooperation. A maximum of two research projects of up to $5,000 can be awarded each year.
The 11 institutions include: Adirondack Community College, Clarkson University, Clinton Community College, Jefferson Community College, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, North Country Community College, Paul Smith’s College, St. Lawrence University, SUNY Canton, SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam.