Trustees Tour JHF-Supported Teen Mental Health Spaces During All-Boards Meeting

Board members tour the UpStreet space during the December All-Boards meeting.

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation's commitment to teen mental health was on full display at its December All-Boards meeting, which included tours of both The Beacon and UpStreet.

The Friendship Circle's The Beacon in Squirrel Hill held its first open house of its teen wellness and community space in May and started providing after-school and evening hours Monday through Friday in September. Made possible in part by a grant from JHF and others, the drop-in community space provides teens a stigma-free wellness support and connection with peers.

Located at 1926 Murray Avenue, the 2,000-square-foot space offers programming on mindfulness, self-expression through creative arts, self-advocacy skills, finding purpose, setting boundaries, handling anxiety and depression, and connection with other available resources for therapeutic support when necessary.

"When the JHF conducted a study tour to Australia, we visited a headspace center. As of now, Australia has 154 drop-in centers for youth and teens around the country and plans to double that number." Dr. Feinstein said. "What you're going to see today is our attempt to replicate these invaluable programs in the US. Here at The Friendship Circle, we have The Beacon, and a second center exists several blocks away at UpStreet."

Karen Wolk Feinstein and members of JHF’s senior staff provided an update to the Board on the accomplishments of JHF’s programs in 2023.

The two drop-in centers for teens seeking immediate counseling or support or just someone to talk to in a friendly setting were inspired by headspace, a youth mental health model in Australia that sparked the interest of Dr. Feinstein, Debra Caplan and Nancy Zionts on the Foundation's 2018 study tour. Australia's extraordinary commitment to investing in its youth inspired JHF to create these two spaces in Pittsburgh, hoping that excellent models might seed a movement.

Rabbi Mordy and Rivkee Rudolph thanked Dr. Feinstein, the Board, and JHF Senior Program Manager Deborah Murdoch for their support.

The Board also toured JFCS UpStreet Pittsburgh, a teen mental health service offering free counseling to anyone ages 12-22. JHF provided among the first grants that enabled the initial launch of the program in 2018 as an online platform serving teens during the pandemic. UpStreet has since extended its service delivery, opening a physical space at 5844 Forward Avenue in Squirrel Hill in early 2023.

With the goal of reducing the stigma of seeking mental health support, avoiding escalation of symptoms to a crisis stage, and enhancing the quality of life of youth, since its inception in 2020, over 800 people between the age of 12-22 have used its services.

UpStreet's teen mental wellness program offers drop-in consultations with therapists, scheduled therapy appointments, text-based peer support, and support groups for teens. UpStreet's services can be accessed in person or by using the chat boy located at the bottom of its web page.

"Our vision is to have these drop-in centers all over the city and all over the country," Dr. Feinstein said. 

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