All About The OnTrackNY Peer Specialist

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At our most recent Downstate Youth Council meeting, the group spoke candidly about the role of the peer specialist, and how important and crucial this position is. Some members had graduated the OnTrackNY program prior to the implementation of the peer role, while others are currently benefiting from having a peer specialist on their OnTrackNY team. Members of the council reflected on their experiences navigating the medical system, and how significant it is to have someone with lived experience advocating for them, and simply understanding their experience during these times. Whether members had direct experience with a peer specialist or not, the underlying thread of the conversation was a unanimous excitement about this role, and the importance of the peer specialist being valued and given an equal amount of impact on the OnTrackNY team. Youth Council members feel strongly that lived experience is just as relevant, useful, and beneficial a part of the OnTrackNY model as medical expertise is. We look forward to continuing these meaningful conversations with the group in the coming months

Promoting Hope and Opportunities For Youth in Early Psychosis: ProHope

SAMHSA Healthy Transitions Grant

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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, called “Promoting Hope and Opportunities for Youth with Early Psychosis” (ProHope), enables New York State to expand the evidence-based, OnTrackNY model of Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) to help young people achieve their goals for school, work, and relationships. ProHope will be implemented at The Child Center of NY, serving the Queens community, and at two Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) clinics serving the communities of Peekskill and Greenburgh (two towns in Westchester county, north of NYC) and adjacent areas. The grant will focus on youth and young adults who are within 2 years of the onset of a non-affective psychotic disorder.
New York State was awarded a previous Healthy Transitions grant, which has just completed its 5th and final year. The previous grant supported the establishment of OnTrackNY teams in Manhattan (at The Jewish Board) and in Syracuse (at Hutchings Psychiatric Center), as well as creating resources to support the delivery of culturally competent care and the creation of recovery videos and a blog to give voice to OnTrackNY participants and graduates about their experiences.
We look forward to continuing this great work through ProHope. Overall, the SAMHSA Healthy Transitions grants include a family of 23 other states, territories, and tribal governments across the country collectively and creatively focused on:
• Creating, implementing, and expanding services and supports that are developmentally appropriate, culturally competent, and youth and young adult-driven, involve family and community members (including business leaders and faith-based organizations), and provide for continuity of care and support between child and adult-serving systems.
• Improving cross-system collaboration, service capacity, and expertise related to the population(s) of focus through infrastructure and organizational change at the state/tribal level, and
• Implementing public awareness and cross-system provider training (e.g. higher education/community colleges, behavioral health providers

For more information, please feel free to reach out to either DJ Wilkerson, ProHope/OnTrackNY Youth Coordinator at:, or Chacku Mathai, SAMHSA Healthy Transitions Project Director at:

Meet our New Youth Coordinator

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Hey y’all! My name is Denzel (DJ) Wilkerson and I’m joining OnTrackNY as a Youth Coordinator by way of the SAMHSA Healthy Transitions grant: Promoting Hope and Opportunities for Youth with Early Psychosis. I entered this field through my own personal experience with mental health and advocacy. I have always been interested in helping others have a voice that will be heard and an impact that will be felt. I learned about peer advocacy through a supportive program that I participate in after my brief institutionalization. There I learned about Youth Peer Advocacy and the peer network. I wouldn't have been exposed to it otherwise had it not been for a good friend who told me about the services he was receiving. Upon completion in that program, I was hired as a Youth Peer Advocate, eventually transitioning to systems advocacy and spreading the work of peer advocates to various programs across NYS. As a Youth Coordinator, I aim to revitalize the effort for putting youth in more leadership positions and amplifying youth voice in decision making and implementation. I am a Harlem born and raised New Yorker and I've never said "fuhgeddaboudit" a day in my life.

OnTrackNY Quarterly Newsletter-January

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Happy New Year! This letter features an introduction from our new Youth Coordinator, as well news about our new SAMHSA Healthy Transitions Grant! This letter also explains the peer specialist role, and provides tips and tricks for sticking to your New Year's resolutions. Lastly, check out the updates column for news about our youth and family councils.

Click on the title of this post for a downloadable version of the newsletter

Upcoming OnTrackNY Films

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We are excited to announce that we recently wrapped filming on three new OnTrackNY films! Two of these films will feature OnTrackNY teams and the third will tell the story of a former OnTrackNY participant who is now working as a Peer Specialist on one of our teams. We will be editing these films for the next several months, so please be on the lookout for updates on our progress. We can’t wait to roll these out on our Facebook and blog in the New Year!

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