The Jewish Healthcare Foundation named Squirrel Hill resident and educator Nina Butler project coordinator for the 15217 Neighborhood-based Teen Mental Health Initiative. The initiative is a collaboration between JHF, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and Jewish Family and Community Services.
“Nina Butler is uniquely qualified to lead this initiative. She brings a wealth of professional experience, working directly with young people and on health and mental health issues,” said JHF President and CEO Karen Wolk Feinstein in a statement. “She will help us realize our vision of a neighborhood safety net for teens, building from the bottom up.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens nationwide. “In Allegheny County,” JHF noted, “a third of hospitalized teens had a principal diagnosis of a mental health or substance-use disorder, and more than one in three county teens reported intentionally hurting themselves.”
In response to such findings, and a determination that teens in crisis were not receiving timely treatment, JHF founded its adolescent behavioral health initiative three years ago.
JHF recently approved two grants — both following the October 27 attack at the Tree of Life building — to support the 15217 initiative: A $220,000 allocation was made to support staffing, and “a significant designation of funds was set aside to be used for programming for community education, navigation and support, and advocacy,” according to the organization.
Given recent communal trauma, ensuring effective mental health treatments is key, explained Butler.
“We must act with urgency to bring mental illness out of the shadows. In the aftermath of Tree of Life, that need is even greater within the 15217 community,” she said in a statement. “Within the last few weeks, two teens from Parkland and a father from Sandy Hook committed suicide. Teens, their families, their teachers and all who touch their lives, must learn to recognize red flags and where to turn for help. It’s thrilling that there is a coalition of organizations collaborating on this initiative as we strive to build a model that other communities can follow.” pjc