Family Services looks at new program

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Dr. Smith Lee, left, talks with a conference participant

POUGHKEEPSIE – Family Services of Poughkeepsie announced new developments
in care, funding and growing partnerships between the city, Dutchess County
and Marist College, Thursday, as the agency presented its annual Family
Services Report to the Community.
Specifically, this year’s event put a major focus on the care
and needs of individuals who had lost loved ones due to violence.

Keynote speaker and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Marist, Dr. Jocelyn
Smith Lee, had conducted a study among 40 young, black men between the
ages of 18 and 24 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Her study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that
on average, each individual within the study population had lost three
loved ones due to violence. Tragically, the individual who had lost the
most loved ones to violence, out of the 40 individuals, was a 19-year-old
who had lost 10 loved ones as the result of senseless violence.

Dr. Smith Lee’s findings have suggested that not only is trauma
a factor within this demographic, but these traumatic experiences contribute
to these affected individuals’ ability to have safe and stable transitions
to adulthood.

For the past six months, Smith Lee has been working with Family Services
in the Teen Resource Activity Center. With the similar inner city conditions
within Poughkeepsie and the plague of violent crimes over the summer,
Smith Lee said she thinks her work in Baltimore will be of use in Poughkeepsie.

“It’s important for us to be able to do research, in Poughkeepsie,
to specifically understand what’s happening here, but I think there
are kind of key correlations across the two cities,” she said. “In
particular, the social conditions that contribute to violence such as
educational opportunities, work opportunities, residential segregation,
poverty, racism; all those are a host of factors that maintain these issues.
But, certainly, the grief and the trauma is still very prevalent among
the young people here, particularly with the string of violence that happened
this summer. We know that there are ripple effects for that. The city
is hurting in response to that and it’s important for us to actually
have conversations with those family members and friends to understand:
what are their experiences and what do they see as needs so that we can
respond appropriately,” she said.

Poughkeepsie Mayor Robert Rolison said the city and the county are completely
on board with keeping up with the needs of the individuals Family Services
serves, with him saying he has spoken to Smith Lee about creating an additional
partnership between the city, Marist and Family Services, to come up with
a plan to help these surviving victims of violence.

Rolison said the first part of this is going to be funding. Wednesday
evening, at the State of the County Address, County Executive Marcus Molinaro
suggested investing an additional $500,000 for a Youth Services Center
and another $500,000 for a comprehensive youth study across the county.

“Obviously, a lot of those used services are centered here in the
City of Poughkeepsie; so, that’s going to give us a real good plan
of action as we move forward into developing new services, strengthening
the services we already have, looking at maybe another youth services
center, whether it’s going to be new or, it’s going to be
a location we already have,” said Rolison. “If we start committing
moneys to that, we’ll have a plan and a real good comprehensive
study of what we need to do.”

The Dutchess Legislature will vote on the bonding this spring and Rolison
has announced his full support of the endeavors proposed by Molinaro.