Click to listen to this post.
Laurie Sigalos is the new executive director of the Philipstown Behavioral Health Hub in Cold Spring.
What’s your background?
My undergraduate and graduate degrees are from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I have a bachelor’s in behavioral sciences with a minor in law, a minor in sociology and a specialization in reintegration from within the criminal justice system and from the military — a lot of it involving mental health and substance use. My graduate degree is in forensic psychology, which is the application of psychology to the law. I started at a rape crisis center, and then was asked to pilot a program in New York City family courts for victims of domestic violence. We did it in one borough and then replicated it in all five. After that I was asked to go into Queens and put together the first anti-stalking unit in New York state. The majority of what I do is immediate crisis response, risk assessments and looking at the immediate aftermath of trauma.
What interested you about the Hub?
I was coming out of a long-term stint in the corporate sector and wanted to go back to my roots. I liked the [Hub’s] dedication and commitment to serving individuals with concerns about behavioral health, including substance use. And it felt right when I went to look at the space. It was warm, it was welcoming and it was clear that they were there for the right reasons. I see a community that has suffered because of these issues but is actually doing something about it. All of our services are confidential and we do not disclose a participant’s information without written consent.
Are there enough resources?
Part of the reason I was hired is to answer that question. Are we doing enough? Do we need more? Where do we get more from? We’re looking to do a deep dive into how we can reach a broader scope and provide more services. A new program we’re starting will provide services to seniors. We’re working with the Putnam County Office of Senior Resources and asking seniors, “What can we do for you?” We really want this to be senior-driven. We’re also developing a collaboration with the Cold Spring Police Department, and looking at longevity and sustainability. Collaboration is key — having as many connections as you can.
How much have our views on mental illness changed?
It became OK to say, “I’m not all right with this, I’m having nightmares, I can’t sleep, I can’t stop thinking about it, my children are terrified, I’m terrified.” Some movement has been made, but we still have a long way to go. When you look at the prevalence of mental illness within the United States, one in five people has a diagnosable mental illness. Out of those, approximately 40 percent are seeking treatment. So, there’s a big chasm between folks getting treatment and those not.
What is your message to local residents hesitant about seeking help?
Four words: You are not alone.