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Expanding services for youth

Jo Elyn Frankel Nyman comes from a family that has long supported a variety of charitable causes and service organizations both within the University of Michigan and throughout metropolitan Detroit. A trained psychotherapist with a passion for children and adolescents, Jo Elyn approached the U-M Health System (UMHS) in late 2010 with a desire to help youth and families who struggle with mental health issues, hoping to provide earlier and better access to care and more effective treatments.

Nyman believes in a holistic approach to mental health care that includes mindfulness, meditation, and, more generally, psychotherapy approaches that consider the whole child and family. She is keenly aware that many children and adolescents end up in hopeless situations, incarcerated, or with problems that worsen over time—and that they are hurting. She also knows that psychotherapy services are sometimes the most appropriate treatment and often produce the best outcomes when used in combination with medication.

Yet unfortunately, largely because Michigan has a shortage of well-trained clinicians who can provide psychotherapy services, many youth are treated by providers whose first-line treatment tends to be medication alone. Families from underserved and rural areas, even if insured, cannot make the trip to southeastern Michigan for ongoing care through UMHS, and our clinics do not have the capacity to treat everyone who seeks care. Jo Elyn felt compelled to help advance earlier identification and intervention strategies and to address this gap in access to quality mental health services. She has partnered with the U-M Depression Center to create a program to do just that.

With a generous gift from Jo Elyn and George Nyman through the Samuel and Jean Frankel Health and Research Foundation in 2011, the Depression Center established the Frankel Program for Improving Access to Quality Mental Health Services for Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. A team including Program Director Cheryl King, Ph.D., Program Manager Melissa Webster, M.S.W., Depression Center Executive Director John Greden, M.D., and a select group of child psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and social workers have launched two major Frankel Program initiatives:

The goal of the Frankel Psychotherapy Training Program is to build capacity to provide quality psychotherapy services within the U-M community, the surrounding region, and statewide, an initiative that will significantly impact children and families. The Depression Center is now offering intensive workshop training to mental health providers from across the state. Those who choose to participate in extended follow-up supervision will obtain case-based guidance and feedback, culminating in program certification.

Trainings include:

  • Behavioral Activation
  • Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System for Psychotherapy
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

The goal of the Frankel Psychotherapy Access Initiative is to reach more disadvantaged children and families in southeastern Michigan by improving their access to psychotherapy and related services. “My goal is that no child or teen who needs help is ever turned away because of financial or insurance issues,” Nyman says. The strategic plan for this initiative will emphasize providing more accessible psychotherapy services to disadvantaged families by integrating these services with their other healthcare at university-affiliated centers and clinics.

In addition, the program anticipates providing free groups to children and families on topics that may include:

  • Using mindfulness to build resilience through awareness of thoughts and feelings
  • Helping families understand and cope after loss
  • Raising children with challenging behaviors
  • Enhancing family relationships through attachment

“Jo Elyn shares our vision of providing access to quality mental health services to those young people who need them most,” King says. “With the Frankel family’s support, we are finally able to take major steps toward translating this vision into reality. I am excited to be part of this initiative, believe it will have long-term impact, and am so very grateful for her support.”

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