Sheltering Arms in the Hub. Photo: Holly Deaton
Sheltering Arms in the Hub. Photo: Holly Deaton

South Bronx residents now have another option for mental health care. A new licensed mental health clinic opened its doors at 432 East 149th St in October.

The clinic, run by Sheltering Arms, an organization that provides a range of family and childhood services across New York, hopes to address a pressing need, the lack of mental health services in the area.

According to data from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, there is only one mental health worker for every 540 residents in the Bronx. In comparison, Manhattan has one mental health worker per 130 residents.

Additionally, only 1 percent of children ages 0-4, have treatment slots or allocated spot for treatment in the South Bronx, according to the New York City Citywide Children’s Committee. Some clinics allow children who fall into this age range to use slots generally reserved for children aged 5-17 on a first come first served basis.

Elizabeth McCarthy, CEO of Sheltering Arms, said although the center will serve clients of any age, it will specialize in working with children, youth and families with kids

McCarthy said the center offers targeted therapies for each age group, including those under five. According to McCarthy, each age group needs a different approach to care.

“For our teenagers, we tend to use Creative Arts therapies, music, art, things that they respond to, as kind of an entree into talk therapy,” she said.

Natalie Wilson, Director of Mental Health Services for Sheltering Arm, said the organization developed the idea for the clinic about two years ago, and hopes to eventually serve more than 300 clients.

Sheltering Arms Children and Family Counseling Center includes treatment for substance abuse, family and community violence, loss and bereavement and behavioral problems and accepts several forms of insurance including Medicaid Managed Care.

Yvette Priego, a former client of Sheltering Arms in Jamaica, Queens, said she came to the opening to support the center because they helped her when she was struggling with postpartum depression and domestic abuse at home.

She connected with a Sheltering Arms therapist who convinced her to attend group sessions.

“I was going through depression. Sally really helped guide me through,” she said. “They never give up on me. They always were in contact with me, even on the weekend.”

The new clinic is part of a wider organization that provides a range of services in the South Bronx, including foster care placement and adoptive services, youth programs, early childhood education, and including for children with developmental disabilities.

According to the organization’s website, Sheltering Arms helps nearly 500 children each year find their foster and adoptive families. These programs act as a gateway to needed mental health services, especially for the neighborhood’s immigrant communities, where mental health assistance is often seen as taboo.

“We’re trying to break that down by having a mental health therapist on-site in early childhood center, people gain trust there, and then are willing to come to the clinic,” said McCarthy. 

For more information on services provided please contact or (212) 937-1425.

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