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Adcock Protests County Cuts To Youth Programs

Massapequa Deputy Superintendent joins other Long Island school district leaders in calling for Nassau County to restore $8 million in funding.

Massapequa Deputy Superintendent Alan Adcock joined other local school district superintendents on Tuesday, Oct. 2 and called on Nassau County to restore youth and family programs that were cut or eliminated from the county budget on July 5. Adcock was joined by representatives from Elmont, Great Neck, Long Beach, Mineola, Uniondale and Westbury as they protested the decision to slash nearly $8 million in program funding that went to counseling, tutoring, crisis intervention, after school programs, and other areas.

These programs were the victim of the ongoing tug-of-war between party lines in the county concerning borrowing and redistricting. Organizations such as YES Community Counseling Center in Massapequa as well others across Nassau County, like the Gateway Youth Outreach in Elmont, and Mineola Youth and Family Services in Mineola, were blindsided when the cut came down three months ago.

“I’m here to support the efforts of YES community counseling within our community of Massapequa; an agency that provides invaluable services to youth and our families within Massapequa,” said Adcock. “With regards to our youth at risk, if those services are not provided and handled within schools by agencies such as YES, providing their needs, where do those needs actually play out? They play out on the street.”

Jamie Bogenshutz, executive director at YES Community Counseling Center says that her organization has already made painful cuts because of the county’s cutbacks. According to Bogenshutz, a Friday night program that YES held in partnership with the Farmingdale School District has been shut down. That program, called “The Place,” allowed middle students to gather in a safe environment on Friday nights, instead of taking to the streets or other far less secure locations. In addition, she said that YES has had to refer people out to other agencies, curtail other services and has had to eliminate three part-time positions. She added the funding for a YES center in Levittown has also been terminated and that if the county funding is not restored, more cuts could be forthcoming.

“This is coming at a time when people need us more than ever before,” said Bogenshutz. “We’re just seeing more and more children and families that are affected by what’s going on in the world.”

Bogenshutz says that YES provides services to children who are the victims of domestic violence, physical violence, bullying and other frightening issues. In addition, she also says that the center provides individual counseling, programs to develop good coping skills, peer support groups, parenting groups for common issues, and parenting groups for children of divorced parents. She says that the loss of funding has hampered the ability of YES to do so.

“Individual and family counseling had to be revamped,” Bogenshutz stated. “Some are being referred out. The youth board program allowed us to see people who were uninsured, underinsured, or just financially overwhelmed. We could bring them in and they would pay zero dollars or they were paying what they could afford.”

Bogenshutz says that the Massapequa Community Fund has been phenomenal in helping YES. Because of its efforts, Bogenshutz says that YES has been able to continue some of its most vital programs, at least for the present.

“Thank goodness the Massapequa Community Fund has stepped in and allowed us to keep a lot of these programs on life support,” Bogenshutz remarked. “We’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

The New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN) sent a letter to Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano and the entire county legislature on Sept. 28, in support of restoring the programs. NYSAN Executive Director Nora Niedzielski said the programs, “allow parents to work without worrying about their children’s health, development and safety and [the programs] reduce juvenile crime,” the letter read.

Local school and community leaders agreed. Coalition of Nassau County Youth Agencies President Peter Levy feels the programs were the victim of political struggles in the county.

“We cannot be used as pawns in political games,” he said. “School superintendents are well aware of the negative impact on their school communities due to the loss of vital services provided to their students and we appreciate their partnership in this campaign.”

Activists, youth organizations and local community fixtures have been pleading for a restoration of funds since the summer, but this marks the first time school heads have banded together to force the issue. The educators were lobbying for a specific area or program, but had one common goal.

Executive Director of Mineola Youth and Family Services Cristina Balbo is still working with local youth, without pay, on her own time, for the good of the children. She said, “Our agency is basically closed. However, I still volunteer my time with no pay, along with two or three volunteers from the agency to keep the clients safe.”

Balbo is hoping the funding gets restored. She recently met with Nassau County Legislator Rich Nicolello and State Senator Jack Martins to discuss the program cuts.

“Does anyone have an understanding that these agencies are not going to be around?” Balbo stated.

“To wipe out all of them, it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Mineola Superintendent Michael Nagler stated.

Ronald Scaglia contributed to this story.