On Voting: Thoughts From our Youth Coordinator DJ Wilkerson

Helpful Links and Resources Included

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My thoughts on voting

In a year of many firsts for me, I will have my first voting experience for the primary election. Though I have only been eligible for 1 previous primary, I’ve never wanted or felt need to cast my ballot. I’ve always had a, “whatever happens, will” way of looking at things with little to no hope that my influence would make much of any difference. Our previous election only helped to solidify that thought for me. “So, if my mindset hasn’t changed in that aspect, then what’s inspiring me to participate?” That’s a question I ask myself several times a day and I’ll probably continue to ask myself even after the results this year. So far, I’ve realized 3 things that have changed my perspective of the political game.

1.      I’m getting older.

I used to not care about the outcome of elections, the outrage of political theater, or the lasting effects of chosen candidates because I was too young to be affected or too removed to notice. Issues like taxes and insurance weren’t anything I had to think about, and I moved through my environment only noticing changes that had direct and immediate effects on my life. The need for voting was only explained in school at a surface level. “Your vote counts” are words I’m all too familiar with and they still didn’t move me until I found out why it should matter.

2.      Policies over personnel

I found out that I can change procedures rather than people. I never had much faith in candidates because I’ve never found anyone that I totally agree with. I’ve never subscribed to the lesser of two evils approach that keeps me idling in a state of discontent. I’d rather put my voice towards issues. With my vote I can possibly change how we handle things as a nation rather than how one person views it. Either way I’m going to make my voice known.

3.      I’ve activated my activism

Fighting against the deeply entrenched and systemic issues that plague the country is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and continue to do. It still feels hopeless sometimes when I think about how much I’m really up against but, support is a powerful thing. Attending protests, rallies, and sit-ins have changed my state of mind and reinvigorated me in ways that I didn’t know were possible. Being a part of a large, diverse collective with similar goals in mind is one of the strongest feelings I’ve ever experienced and, when the collective is big, vocal, and strong, there’s no way it can be ignored. Dedicating my time to different movements has made me challenge myself to never be complacent and always use my voice as long as I have it. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to cast your critically important vote in this year’s election!

Here are some great resources recently shared through the NYAPRS E-News. is a nonpartisan non-profit organization that is offering a treasure trove of information to help you vote in the upcoming fall election on their website, at, including

  • See if you’re registered to vote: &a

A Message From OnTrackNY Central

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We want to share our solidarity during these very difficult and uncertain times. 

We think it is important to explicitly acknowledge the pain and anguish that recent events are causing us individually and as a collective- and particularly to the Black community. OnTrackNY condemns all acts of unequal treatment, police brutality, and white supremacy. We denounce the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. These events have brought to the forefront the ways in which systemic racism is a daily reality.  So many emotions happening now—rage, fear, despair, grief, exhaustion, and others.   

We know that racism and mental health are intrinsically connected and need to be discussed even when we don't have all the answers or may not even know all of the questions that should be asked. Maintaining social distance and being apart from one another seems doubly cruel right now.  We wish we could gather together in person to talk and listen to one another.  

To all of you providing services to young people and families in OnTrackNY, please know that we at OnTrack Central stand with you and the people you serve. We are committed to continue working on identifying and deconstructing racism and bias in our interactions, service, training, and research. We at OnTrack Central continue to talk and explore this topic amongst ourselves, we encourage teams to do the same and we will support any efforts to do so. 


Sincerely OnTrackNY Central Team,

Abbe Duke, Chacku Mathai, DJ Wilkerson, Doron Amsalem, Gary Scannevin, Hong Ngo, Igor Malinovsky, Ilana Nossel, Iruma Bello, Julia Bruk, Lisa Dixon, Liza Watkins, Margaret Kurk, Rufina Lee, Sarah Piscitelli, Steve Smith, Talia Richkin, Tasha Houston, Tom Jewell

10 Mindful Management Tips

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As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, COVID-19 (coronavirus) has made its way around the world. These are times of preventative action and increased sanitation efforts. Many nations and countries have been driven to the point of quarantine or massive social distancing, affecting the flow of the world for better and worse. In these times, you may be left wondering how you can adapt to all the changes that come with these new terms of life. We may not know what’s coming next, but we have to keep ourselves healthy and prepared to handle this global issue with our families, friends, and neighbors. As you survive through these new varying circum-stances and degrees of urgency, here are some tips to consider for mindfully managing yourself during a pan-demic. 

Keep In Touch 

Whether you are still going to work every day, working remotely from home, or recently found yourself going through unfortunate times, stay connected. Keeping contact with your loved ones can give you and them some ease of mind and may even be inspiring. Respecting the six-foot distancing zone may be a little hard to do but there are more ways to socialize than in-person meet ups. In the age of technology, you can use chats, text, and video to talk to each other from a safe distance. 

Stay Supported 

Physical social distancing is a safe practice for minimizing the risk of infection. This doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to anyone in your time of quarantine. Receiving and/or providing support is important in these isolating times. There are a lot of different methods to keep in contact with those who are close to you. From family and friends to medical and mental health supports systems, it’s helpful and encouraging to keep in contact. For example, there are phone and/or online based meetings for local anonymous support groups and hotlines for medical or mental health consultation as needed. If you need help connecting to others, try contacting your OnTrackNY Team. 

Stay Active

In the wake of these most recent events, gyms and yoga studios are closed, but this doesn’t mean you have to stop your routines. In-home sessions can be just as useful. You can even get creative about materials like turning a blanket into a mat or bags into dumbbells. If you’re feeling less than inspired to continue your routine or you’re missing an instructor, there are apps and streaming services you can use to stay connected and keep your sessions regulated. Physical activities like yoga and workouts are good ways to alleviate stress and stay fit during a term of reduced mobility. 

Find The Facts There is a lot of helpful information being circulated about COVID-19 and the steps being taken to mini-mize what is already a global pandemic. Sources like the CDC, the NYC COVID text line and the Notify NYC info hotline (listed below) are great ways to stay updated and informed on the next steps you’ll need to take. Unfortunately, in this age of technology, misinformation is spread just as fast. It’s also our respon-sibility to make sure that we check sources and research answers before believing or sharing information. 

Social Media Breaks 

While social media can be an important tool for updates, your intake of it might affect emotional or mental fortitude. Taking 45min – 1hr breaks from scrolling is a way to limit how much you view. Social media, while helpful, can also lead to panic, depression, and anxiety. Frequent

Statewide Youth and Young Adult Leadership Council

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We are excited to announce that the formation of an OnTrackNY Statewide Youth and Young Adult Leader-ship Council is in the works! The creation of this council comes in conjunction with Amplify OnTrackNY, a new initiative aimed at engaging, listening, and responding to feedback about OnTrackNY services.
This initiative provides OnTrackNY with opportunities for partnering with participants, families, and treat-ment teams to achieve the highest quality of care. The Statewide Council will be one such opportunity for par-ticipants and graduates to make their voices heard. The council will aim to center and elevate the perspectives of OnTrackNY participants across New York State. Members will meet to represent and express what matters most to them in the design, delivery, and evaluation of OnTrackNY services, as well as supporting youth guid-ed practices and principles in overall mental health systems transformation.
Over the next few months teams will be oriented to the council and will help us in spreading the word. Additionally, two different informational sessions will be hosted by OnTrackNY central staff for interested participants and graduates to learn more about this opportunity. Membership in the council will consist of a culturally diverse mix of participants and graduates, selected through an application process, with the goal of evenly representing as many OnTrackNY programs as possible. The first Statewide meeting is planned for summer 2020, so please stay tuned for more information!

Child Center of New York Opens OnTrackNY Program

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OnTrackNY was recently awarded a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support the implementation of OnTrackNY. The program is called “Promoting Hope and Opportunities for Youth with Early Psychosis” (ProHope), and allows New York State to expand the OnTrackNY model of Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC). ProHope will be implemented at the Child Center of NY (CCNY), and at two Westchester Jewish Community Services clinics. Below is an introduction provided by our OnTrackNY team at CCNY:
The Child Center of NY began in 1953 as a single children’s counseling center in Queens. Today, it is a multiservice organization that annually reaches more than 35,000 children from birth through young adulthood at almost 70 school and community locations. Its mission is to strengthen children and families with skills, opportunities, and emotional support to build healthy, successful lives. The Child Center works in five main program areas: early childhood edu-cation; behavioral health; child abuse prevention and family support; health homes and integrated care; and youth development.
The Child Center is all about helping people overcome the obstacles they face to reach their full potential, and the OnTrackNY program fits in perfectly with this goal. The program serves up to 40 clients and offers services in six lan-guages: English, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish, and Tagalog. This is in keeping with one of the core principles of The Child Center: that clients are best served by staff who are not only bilingual, but also bicultural, often com-ing from the same communities and cultures as their clients.
The Child Center’s OnTrackNY team is led by Team Leader and Program Director Diane Valente, LCSW-R, and includes Primary Clinician Zhen Han, LMSW; Supported Education and Employment Specialist Lauren Nieves, M.S. Ed.; Peer Specialist Elizabeth Haley, A.S.; Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Richard Callado, PMHNP-BC; and Registered Nurse Edward Lopez, RN. The program is located at the Macari Family Center in The Child Center’s Flushing Clinic at 140-15B Sanford Avenue in Flushing, Queens. It’s a multiservice site that also offers mental health and substance use disorder treatment, early childhood mental health services, child abuse prevention, and a Single Stop program that provides free counseling on entitlement, health insurance, social services, and legal services. You can reach The Child Center’s OnTrackNY program by phone at 718-358-8288 or by fax at 718-358-5265. Its hours are Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The team opened its doors in January.

“We are grateful to have an opportunity to assist young people from all cultures and backgrounds who are facing mental health challenges to achieve their goals of school, work, and relationships,” says Valente. “Some people come to us and ask, ‘Can I recover from this and still find work while also establishing more meaningful relationships?’ With OnTrackNY, I’m happy to be able to tell them, ‘Yes, you can.’”