New Bronx center focuses on youth mental health crisis

JCCA’s new facility will provide the local community with mental health, behavioral, educational and foster care services.

JCCA's Bronx Center Ribbon Cutting

JCCA's Bronx Center Ribbon Cutting Courtesy of JCCA

JCCA, a 200-year-old nonprofit dedicated to child welfare and mental health services to children and families, has opened a new center in the Bronx that will provide the local community with mental health, behavioral, educational and foster care services. 

“Our goal is to provide a haven in addition to providing preventive services for families with child safety risks and foster care for those families that need a temporary placement for their children out of home,” said Ron Richter, CEO and executive director of JCCA.

“We will also be providing, through beautiful therapeutic spaces, mental health or behavioral health services for children and families in the Bronx.”

The new center located on Westchester Avenue will help to combat the youth mental health crisis that has been happening since before the COVID-19 pandemic started. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health after witnessing the soaring rates of mental health challenges. 

Before the pandemic, 1 in 5 children between ages 3 and 17 suffered a mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral disorder. And within the last decade, suicidal behaviors increased by 57%. Among all the young people facing mental health challenges, only an estimated 20% are treated.

During the pandemic, more than 6,600 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 died by suicide. 

With the youth mental health crisis ongoing, JCCA has positioned its new center as a safe space for young people to obtain services. One challenge, however, is finding in-person staffing. 

“The biggest challenge right now is the workforce, getting people who are committed and who want to work in the communities where we serve children and families,” said Richter. “There is huge competition. Given that qualified therapists can be at their kitchen table in the suburbs or in the city, providing therapy via telehealth and making a lot of money. That is a very big challenge.” 

Despite the workforce challenge, JCCA expects the center to still move forward in its mission to serve youth and families.

“The families that we serve are struggling with some significant issues that impact their ability to participate in civic life, and the economy in the city,” said Richter. “And every family in New York should be able to thrive, and most importantly, feel as though their children can thrive. JCCA, for 200 years, has been committed to supporting families so that they can be stable and participate in this extraordinary city's life … Our goal is to figure out how to help that family find its way to stability, so that it can participate in all this city has to offer economically, civically and in every other way.” 

Editor’s note: Ron Richter is a member of the New York Nonprofit Media Advisory Board.