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Central Valley partners to provide student mental health services

Central Valley is partnering with The Neighborhood Center, Inc. to provide students and their families with much-needed counseling.

“Our school district faces multiple challenges as we try to meet our students’ health care needs,” said Central Valley Director of Student Services Lisa Hoffman. “First, Herkimer County has been identified as a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) for mental health providers. Second, we lack the transportation to get people to Utica or other communities where these services exist. Third, our school-based services are limited to the school year; care ends when school is out of session.

“This partnership with The Neighborhood Center addresses these obstacles by bringing critical services into our schools.”

To begin, the partnership will provide two programs—mental health care for students in their schools and AIM (Achieve, Inspire, Motivate), a support program for youth at risk.

Satellite counseling offices

Each school will serve as a satellite office, providing students with intense needs with access to quality mental health services within a school setting. Families will no longer have to struggle with transportation issues or scheduling that often prevent them from seeking services for their children. The program is also year-round, meaning counseling continues without a break.

Although the counseling focus is on Central Valley students, the program recognizes that student issues may result from stresses at home. Counseling may include families and may help arrange for personal counseling for a parent or other non-student.

Central Valley will be served by Nicole Ollerenshaw, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She will be in our schools on the following schedule:

  • Central Valley Academy:  Mondays 9 a.m.-noon
  • Jarvis Middle School:  Mondays 12:30-4 p.m.
  • Barringer Elementary School:  Wednesdays 9 a.m.-noon
  • Fisher Elementary School:  Wednesday 12:30-4 p.m.

School social workers may make referrals directly to Nicole or interested parents can contact the Dr. Ramakrishna Rao Behavioral Health Clinic at 315-272-2700. The Neighborhood Center, Inc. is licensed by the Office of Mental Health to operate two Article 31 clinics in Utica and Rome.


AIM is an after-school program for middle and high school students identified as at risk due to serious life stresses. Two groups of ten Jarvis students and two groups of CVA students will meet one day every other week for this group peer-led program. A professional adult mentor will work with students to build a sense of self-worth, connect to the community, and provide access to counseling services. Youth and mentor will take a series of field trips to encourage hope and provide experiences that will lead to positive change. Family members will be invited as chaperones on these trips. Students will also perform at least 10 hours of community service to help build their community connections.

To participate, students must be referred by school personnel.

Students will meet bi-weekly as follows:

  • Jarvis: every other Wednesday 2:30-4:30 p.m.
  • CVA: every other Thursday 2:30-4:30 p.m.