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Press Release

Ellis Medicine to open The Family Room

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Ellis Medicine receives six-figure grant from Mother Cabrini Health Foundation to establish mental health crisis program for adolescents

Schenectady, N.Y. – A recent $712,560 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation will allow Ellis Medicine to expand access to care for adolescents ages 10 to 17 who are experiencing mental health crises and their families with the creation of The Family Room. With funding from the foundation, Ellis will replicate The Living Room program, its successful walk-in Emergency Department (ED) crisis diversion program for adults.

The goal of The Family Room is to improve access to crisis treatment for adolescents and provide care for their individualized needs. It will operate out of the State Street Health Center, which is home to Ellis Medicine’s  comprehensive outpatient behavioral health programs. The Family Room will function much like The Living Room, providing a comfortable environment with cozy furniture, soft lighting, and a relaxed atmosphere resembling quiet time at home. Upon arrival, guests will be assessed and if a clinician determines they require medical attention, they will be transported to the hospital.

The U.S. is in the middle of a well-documented mental health crisis and the ongoing need for increased access to crisis services for adolescents and their families remains a priority of the Schenectady Community Health Needs Assessment and the Healthy Capital District Initiative. Lack of access to crisis services for adolescents and their families increases the risk of symptom exacerbation and hospital admission. There are very few alternatives to the Emergency Department when an adolescent’s feelings, uncertainty, and anxiety escalate. Families and friends are often ill equipped to intervene in a positive way.

“By improving access to care for adolescents in crisis, we hope to build a stronger support network, while fostering mental health resilience and competencies, and ensure that our community’s young people enter adulthood emotionally able to cope by learning how to identify and respond to signs of mental distress,” said Ellis Medicine President and CEO Paul Milton. “We are confident that The Family Room will be successful in mitigating the crises so many our youth are facing.”

In 2018, Ellis opened The Living Room, co-located in its outpatient mental health center. In its five-year existence, The Living Room has successfully maintained a 98% ED diversion rate for guests and connected thousands of individuals – who might otherwise have gone to the ED for a crisis that didn’t necessitate medical attention – with supports and resources to develop coping, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills, and learn to manage emotions and/or medications. Likewise, The Family Room will help youth and their families focus on strengthening the resilience of young people and prioritizing personal contact and relationships while promoting emotional well-being and preventing mental health conditions from worsening.

The first of its kind in New York State, The Family Room will serve up to eight adolescents at a time and will be staffed with a social worker, case manager, and peer counselor. Guests will have access to counselling, social supports, and social and medical referrals, or they can simply use the visit to calm themselves in a safe, comfortable environment and leave when they are ready. Guests’ families will also be served and will be encouraged to participate if they accompany the adolescent to The Family Room or as a follow up. A parent or guardian is not required for an individual to visit; however, they may be contacted following the visit to understand and help address the crisis.

“Oftentimes, personal relationships are at the core of the crisis and making the family aware of the situation and referrals to resources in the community for both the adolescent and family can prove to be a viable solution for all,” said Ashley Norcross, Clinical Director of Mental Health Services and Social Services at Ellis Medicine. “Of course, confidentiality is always a priority.”

Norcross noted: “Every year, more than 500 children and adolescents experiencing mental and/or behavioral distress – often on the verge of crisis – present in our emergency room. We want to offer them and their family a safe, welcoming alternative. The Family Room will be a place where families can talk to a licensed therapist, get peer counseling and work with a case manager who will connect them with any community services they might need, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. Thank you to Mother Cabrini for providing the resources to make that possible.”

Daniel Frascella, Chief of Programs and Grants at Mother Cabrini, added: “Mother Cabrini Health Foundation shares in Ellis Medicine’s goal of serving the mental health needs of New Yorkers in the Capital Region. Too often, resources are limited and gaps in care can arise. Mother Cabrini Health Foundation is proud to support Ellis’ staff expansion in this area as it strives to serve the needs of its community.

The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation grant will cover start-up and operating expenses for The Family Room, which is scheduled to open in January 2024, for its first two years. Additional support is being sought to sustain the program beyond those initial years. For more information about making a donation to support The Family Room, call 518.243.4600 or email

Online donations may be made at


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