New mobile unit will help McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Site help more victims of trauma
The agency that supports victims of child abuse and neglect in Onondaga County is hitting the road. The McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center is the latest in New York to put a special mobile unit in action to help victims of trauma.
The services and education from an organization like McMahon Ryan are crucial right now, with the mental health fallout from the pandemic, and record-breaking gun violence. McMahon Ryan Executive Director Colleen Merced said reported cases of abuse and neglect have returned to pre-pandemic levels. So she expects this unit will be busy, providing an area for off-site interviews of child abuse victims, counseling services as well as and prevention and outreach. And it will have a big role reaching families in rural areas.
"Kids that cannot get to the center because of transportation, maybe their parents don’t have transportation,” said Merced. “It will allow us to bring that unit there, and provide all the services we provide at the center, in that mobile unit.”
Sheila Poole, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, said using mobile units is an emerging best practice in the field. The state has a goal of getting 13 of them on the road by the end of the year.
“We’re delighted to be supporting this model in the state,” said Poole. “Last year we rolled out six of these units, we have more to go obviously this year, and year to date we’ve served over 800 children."
This mobile unit will go a step further as well. McMahon Ryan is partnering with the Street Addiction Institute to help youth experiencing trauma due to gun violence. Timothy “Noble” Jennings-Bey said the unit will be able to go into neighborhoods impacted by gun violence in real-time.
"We know that trauma isolates people and moves them into a psychological frozen state, so sometimes when you extend an olive branch, they won’t reach back,” said Jennings-Bey. “So it’s our best interest to take this process into the community to kind of meet people where they’re at, so they can get exposed to services."
Right now the big white Winnebago is empty. There are three spaces, including a closed-off room that could be used for interviews. Merced hopes to fill it up with artwork and make it an inviting place for youth to open up.
"We see it as if a child can know who they can talk to if something is happening to them, they can stop it, and they can stop it from happening to somebody else," she said.