New York State budget cuts effective in the new year will take critical funding away from the New York City Tourette Syndrome Counseling Program and force it to shut down.
The New York City Tourette Syndrome Counseling Program (NYCCP), funded through the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, Bureau of Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities, as well as through the NYS Office of Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities, has been notified today that as of January 1, 2012, the program will no longer receive the critical funding it needs to operate, and will therefore have to close its doors after 28 years of serving New York City residents living with Tourette Syndrome.
NYCCP is the only full-time, freestanding community-based counseling program designed for people affected by Tourette Syndrome (TS) in the nation and serves as a model for other health-related counseling programs across the country. Client fees are based on a sliding scale and no one is ever denied service if unable to pay. Managed by licensed social workers in offices in Bayside and Brooklyn, the program has assisted hundreds of individuals, children, and families -- including parents, grandparents, couples, siblings and other extended family members of those living with TS -- in New York City, during its near three decades of existence.
"The impact of the program is massive. Some families are treated for years, and without these supportive services, they would be lost. Often, children and adults with TS face insurmountable daily challenges living with uncontrollable involuntary movements and sounds, which can result in loss of employment, need for costly residential school placement, hospitalization, institutionalization, depression, divorce, and loneliness. The program makes a better life possible for so many New Yorkers and fosters independence for people with TS," said Emily Kelman-Bravo, LCSW, who has administered the program for the past 22 years.
Angela LoCascio and her son John, of Glendale, have been clients of NYCCP for more than 15 years and say the loss of this program is devastating not only to the families it serves but to the community at large.
"This program helps children improve their social skills and boost their self-esteem and teaches them how to better communicate with their peers and teachers about the unique symptoms of their disorder and how to respond to bullying and teasing," said LoCascio. "NYCCP reaches out to schools in the community to teach education professionals about TS. This prevents school-related problems and inappropriate classroom placements. Teachers are grateful for this information as they can better accommodate and understand students' needs in the classroom. I can personally attest to the fact that the program has made the key difference in promoting the best educational outcomes for my son and his teachers."
NYCCP also reaches out to physicians and medical allied professionals to promote early, accurate recognition, and diagnosis of the disorder, which is critical to appropriate treatment of TS.
"There is no other place for our clients to turn for counseling, support, advocacy, and information. This is a devastating loss for the hundreds of families living in New York City struggling with this much misunderstood and life tormenting disorder," Kelman-Bravo explained. "The thought that we will no longer be here for these families is unthinkable and saddening."
About Tourette Syndrome
Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by "tics" -- vocal sounds and physical movements that cannot be controlled. The much misunderstood and often misdiagnosed disorder manifests in early childhood and affects more than 200,000 Americans, with millions more manifesting associated conditions. There is no known cure and the cause remains unknown.