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News from the Noteworthy

Jeff Katz, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Otsego County

Community Foundation spotlights youth mental health

Jeff Katz is the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Otsego County.

To learn more about the Community Foundation of Otsego County, and how you can help, visit, email at, or call (607) 286-3935.


It’s been two years since COVID turned society upside down. Our social lives have been disrupted in ways we could never imagine. We’ve all experienced varying degrees of isolation. Loved ones have been lost, with their survivors unable to mourn them properly. Our children have suffered deeply – erratically in and out of school, apart from their friends and activities, deprived of the most basic components of their education.

“I’ve been in education for over 40 years,” said former Edmeston superintendent Dave Rowley. “I’ve never seen stress levels this high.”

The Community Foundation of Otsego County serves our community in many ways: We gave $200,000 in COVID-related awards in 2021, and more than $100,000 to area non-profits in our ongoing 2021-22 award cycle. Addressing the mental health of our K-12 kids as they navigate COVID disruptions has emerged as a crucial focus.

In December, CFOC awarded $10,000 to create a Resilience Room at Richfield Springs Central School. The Room will be a safe, comfortable space students can use to decrease anxiety, regulate stress levels, and transform feelings of isolation and hopelessness. It will be staffed with appropriate professionals, and students can be referred or can ask to go to this welcoming, protected place.

The Community Foundation focuses on increasing the capacity of non-profits to serve their constituents, so we sought a way to increase the number of trained people to help children deal with this stress. That’s where Marion Mossman came in. She brought to our attention the Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) program, a curriculum that teaches adults to identify, understand, and respond to early indications of mental health and substance use issues among children and adolescents of ages 6-18.

When the YMHFA program proposal was brought to the Community Foundation there were sixteen professionals – representing nine schools in Otsego County – already certified as trainers in YMHFA. The goal over the next year is to enable these people to deliver further trainings to their representative school districts, as well other schools, community-based organizations, and at-large community members. With enough funding, a veritable army of mental health trainers can go to work. To help train this army, the Community Foundation, working with the Otsego County System of Care, awarded $18,192 to purchase 960 YMHFA training manuals.

“This initiative is a coordinated team effort to ensure school professionals, families, and community members receive proper training to identify common signs and symptoms associated with mental health and substance use issues in Otsego County youth,” said Marion. “Our strong relationships with school superintendents and staff will continue to provide a solid platform for better meeting the needs of students, staff, and families.”

It’s become passe to say, “children are our future,” but that triteness is no less true. In many ways, our school districts are our community. How our kids come out of school has a vast impact on what Otsego County will look like in the years to come. The Community Foundation of Otsego County is committed to our county, now and in that future. Addressing the mental health needs of our students has put itself front and center as a pressing need, and the Community Foundation is committed to helping.


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