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Contact Community Services, Syracuse, NY
Contact Community Services

News & Events
Renowned Child Intervention Specialist
Teaches PAX at Contact Office
September 28, 2015
(permanent link)

Dr. Jason Fruth, one of the nation’s leading child intervention specialists, introduced the PAX Good Behavior Game to local school teachers, counselors and administrators at a recent training session at Contact Community Services.

The PAX Good Behavior Game (GBG) is an elementary school intervention that targets classroom behavior. PAX GBG integrates some of the best scientifically proven strategies for classrooms and teaches students to "flip on" their internal focus switch to self-regulate between learning and fun. Students learn how to delay gratification toward a bigger goal, reducing problem behavior and teacher and student stress.

Contact Community Services has introduced PAX GBG to all grades at Meachem Elementary School and Porter Elementary Schools in the Syracuse City School District, and will soon introduce it in kindergarten and third grade at Woodland Elementary School in the East Syracuse-Minoa School District.

Dr. Jason Fruth
Dr. Jason Fruth

Meachem Principal Melissa Evans said she decided to incorporate the PAX Good Behavior Game school-wide in 2014-15 after her office received a disconcerting number of referrals for disruptive behavior in 2013-14.

"Last year was the very first year we had everyone all in, and what a change it was," Melissa said. "The children know what’s expected of them, we’re all on the same page, and it truly does help kids internalize and self-regulate and become more engaged."

"PAX gives students a focus," said Meachem second-grade teacher Kristen Duffy. " They can do these special things along with the rest of my class if they can remain PAXed—peaceful, productive and happy—while I am teaching. Then we all win!"

Read more — about Dr. Jason Fruth

Contact Director Interviewed
About Psychiatrist Shortage
September 24, 2015
(permanent link)
Channel 9 News

Cheryl Giarrusso, the Director of Crisis Intervention Services at Contact Community Services, appeared on NewsChannel 9’s Health Alert recently to discuss how the nationwide psychiatrist shortage is impacting residents in Central New York.

Cheryl Giarrusso, Shortage of psychiatrist

To watch reporter Daryl Kirkland-Morgan’s story, please visit NewsChannel 9’s website. To learn more about the free and confidential Crisis Intervention Services that are available to you and your loved ones, please visit our Crisis and Suicide Prevention page.

Out of the Darkness
Community Walk Oct. 10
September 16, 2015
(permanent link)

You can help bring suicide "Out of the Darkness" by participating in the 10th annual Liverpool/Syracuse "Out of the Darkness Community Walk" from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at Long Branch Park in Liverpool.

The walk will show support for the families and friends of the more than 38,000 Americans who die by suicide each year, and the 20 million people nationwide who suffer from depression. The event also raises money for suicide prevention research and educational programs, helps erase the stigma surrounding suicide and its causes, and encourages those who are suffering from mental illness to seek treatment.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) hosts the "Out of the Darkness Community Walks," which this year will feature about 200,000 people walking in 350 cities across the country.

Businesses, organizations and groups are encouraged to form teams to participate in the walk. Contact Community Services, Inc., has formed a team and you are welcome to join our team for the Oct. 10 event! To register as a walker, join a team or offer a donation, please visit the Out of the Darkness Walks website and click "Register Today."

World Suicide Prevention Day Candle Lighting Memorial
Debra Graham (right), Central New York Area Director for the AFSP, reads a poem at the World Suicide Prevention Day Candle Lighting Memorial at Long Branch Park. In the center is Becky Varik, a Resource Specialist for 211CNY and Crisis Intervention Services at Contact Community Services.

World Suicide Prevention Day Candle Lighting Memorial

For more information about the Liverpool walk, please contact Debra Graham, Central New York Area Director for the AFSP, at .

On World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10, Contact Community Services and the Central New York Chapter of the AFSP partnered for the fourth annual Candle Lighting Memorial at Long Branch Park in Liverpool.

The event remembered loved ones who have died by suicide, supported survivors and their loved ones, and raised awareness about suicide prevention and mental health issues. The memorial included the reading of poems and lighting of candles, and moments of silence for those we have lost to suicide.

Read more — of this article

Candle Lighting Memorial Sept. 10
September 2, 2015
(permanent link)

World Suicde Day Sept 10 According to the World Health Organization, there’s one death by suicide every 40 seconds. That’s about 800,000 deaths by suicide each year—more than homicide and war combined.

To remember loved ones who have died by suicide, support survivors and their loved ones, and bring awareness to the community about suicide prevention, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Central New York Chapter will host its fourth annual Candle Lighting Memorial from 5:45 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at Long Branch Park in Liverpool.

The Candle Lighting Memorial is open to those who have lost a loved one to suicide; it is not open to the general public.

Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, and the Candle Lighting Memorial will help raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental health issues. For the second consecutive year, Contact Community Services is partnering with the AFSP CNY Chapter for the event. Contact provides numerous crisis and suicide prevention services in Central New York, including the local hotline, Crisis Chat for online counseling, and mental health support services.

At 8 p.m. Sept. 10, people from around the world will light candles near a window in memory of those lost to suicide. For more information about World Suicide Prevention Day, vist

How the Community Can Get Involved

  • In order to provide 24-hour service every day of the year, Contact Community Services’ Hotline relies on volunteers who are trained in active listening and suicide and crisis intervention. The next three-day training for volunteers will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 11-13 at Contact Community Services in East Syracuse. Click here for more information about volunteering and the training.

  • The 10th annual Liverpool/Syracuse "Out of the Darkness Community Walk" will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at Long Branch Park. The walk raises money for critical suicide research and prevention programs in Central New York. To register for the walk, go to For more information, contact Debra Graham, Central New York Area Director for the AFSP, at

  • For free and confidential 24-hour suicide prevention and counseling, residents can call Contact Community Services’ Hotline at 315-251-0600 in Onondaga County and 877-400-8740 in Cayuga County. The 24-hour online Crisis Chat service is also available by clicking the "Crisis Chat" box on the right-hand side of this website’s home page.

2015 Volunteer of the Year
July 16, 2015
(permanent link)

Someone needs to talk, and the phone rings. Fortunately, there are people like Mary Ann Wilson on the other end of the line.

Mary Ann, of Pompey, has been a volunteer with Contact Community Services’ hotline since 2010 and a Peer Trainer since 2012. In June, she was recognized at Contact’s annual "VIP Jamboree" as the 2015 Volunteer of the Year for the way she utilizes her compassion and superior active listening skills to navigate through each life-defining call.

"You’re giving yourself up for someone else just by that listening; me and I is not in the conversation," Mary Ann said. "So you really truly feel like you're giving because you're not thinking of yourself during these phone calls."

Volunteer of the Year Mary Ann Wilson
Contact Community Services’ 2015 Volunteer of the Year Mary Ann Wilson (right) at the VIP Jamboree with fellow hotline volunteer Gail Sterling, who recently celebrated her 40th anniversary with Contact.

A mother of four grown children (Anna, Michael, Christopher and Matthew), Mary Ann recently completed her 20th year as a Teaching Assistant at Fabius-Pompey Elementary School.

Mary Ann recently visited with Contact Public Relations and Communications Coordinator Matt Michael to discuss why she became a volunteer, the benefits of active listening, and the rewards she gets from being a hotline volunteer.

Matt: What made you want to become a hotline volunteer?

Mary Ann: I was widowed and looking for something else to do, especially on weekends, and I happened to see an ad in the paper for volunteers for Contact. I really didn’t know a lot about it, so I decided to go to the first orientation and it sounded interesting. It was very fulfilling to learn this active listening, and the model that we used was good for anything in your life to communicate with people. It benefitted me with family, friends, co-workers, and children. So it not only fulfilled a need for myself, it fulfilled a need for others so it was a perfect combination.
Mary Ann Wilson

Read more — of the interview with Mary Ann Wilson and Other Jamboree Honorees

HSGI Boosts Graduation Rate
July 6, 2015
(permanent link)

Contact Community Services is proud to announce that 81 percent of its 2014-15 High School Graduation Initiative (HSGI) students graduated this June, and that percentage will increase to about 85 percent when the remaining graduates receive their diplomas in August.

For the past three years, Contact and the Syracuse City School District have partnered to implement the HSGI, which provides academic and support services to students who are chronically absent, have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out, or are re-entering school. The program included students from Corcoran, Fowler, Henninger and Nottingham high schools.

"We had proposed 75 percent by August, but through the great efforts of our HSGI specialists in each school we will bring the year to a close in August with 85 percent of the HSGI students graduating," said A. Najah Salaam Jennings-Bey, HSGI Program Coordinator from Contact Community Services. "And we’re also pleased to report that more than 20 of these students have been accepted at area colleges and plan to attend."

HSGI Boosts Graduation Rate

Contact’s HSGI Specialists include Alejandra Martinez (Fowler Twilight), Rashida Chambers (Corcoran and Nottingham), Joe Akins (Henninger and Nottingham), and Frank Smith (Fowler). They serve as mentors and counselors as they discover and address the core issues that prevent the students from attending school.

The specialists help the students address obstacles to graduation, which often include low academic performance, high risk behaviors, and family situations. The staff supports students to make positive personal changes; helps them navigate systems such as school, family court and probation; and provides support, resources, and continuity. They also connect with parents regularly and make home visits.

"One of the things (Fowler High School) did with their attendance team and the High School Graduation Initiative, they went after those students who dropped out, recovered them, brought them back in and really worked on having those students recover their credits and pass their regents exam," Brian Nolan, Executive Director of High Schools for the Syracuse City School District, told The Post-Standard/ in September 2014.

The following is a list of the 59 June/August graduates who were mentored in the 2014-15 HSGI program (with the colleges that have accepted them, if applicable) as of July 6:

Read more »

2015 Stanley Scholarship Award
July 2, 2015
(permanent link)

As a 10th-grade student at the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central, Nasier McIntyre was hanging out with the wrong crowd.

"Hanging out with so-called friends, all we were doing was digging a deeper hole," said Nasier, who was born and raised in Syracuse. "What that means is we were fooling around and not doing well in our classes."

Unfortunately, it’s a common story. Nasier’s father has been in and out of his life with little contact, and Nasier and his younger brother were raised by a single mother in a neighborhood where just walking around the block is a reason for a young man to fear for his life.

But then Nasier met Cindy Squillace, a counselor with Contact Community Services’ Student Assistance Program, and his life started to turn around. Two years after being on a path to nowhere, Nasier graduated from ITC and will become the first member of his family to attend college. Nasier will attend Onondaga Community College with the idea of becoming a social worker or counselor so he can "help people get to where they need to be and give them understanding and comfort."

To recognize Nasier’s hard work and dedication to reaching his full potential, Contact Community Services recently presented Nasier with the $1,000 Pauline Stanley Scholarship Award. The scholarship is given annually to a high school senior of color who has demonstrated a commitment to education and Contact Community Services through his or her active participation in one of Contact's teen programs and who plans to continue his or her education at an institution of higher learning.

Nasier McIntyre (right) and his brother, Juelz, and George Stanley, Pauline Stanley’s son who oversees the Pauline Stanley Scholarship Award. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Squillace)

Read more »

2015 Youth Peace Award
June 4, 2015
(permanent link)

Congratulations to Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central (ITC) junior Jaydia Perry, one of four recipients of the 2015 Youth Peace Award presented by the Nuclear Free World Committee of the Syracuse Peace Council. The award recognizes young people who have shown a commitment to peace, justice and protecting the environment.

"Jaydia is one of those students who does not hesitate to interrupt bullying when she encounters it and to stand up for the rights of all humans to have a good, decent life!" says Cindy Squillace, Contact Student Assistance Program counselor at ITC. Cindy should know because Jaydia participates in several school groups that Cindy facilitates.

Jaydia was honored for her work as co-president of the ITC Gay-Straight Alliance, member of the Teen Institute leadership team, Girl Ambassador from the Matilda Joselyn Gage Foundation and Leader for the SEEDS of Peace program.

SIDS support group talks about grief, love and resilience
June 2, 2015
WCNY Cycle of Health show, minute 8:00
(permanent link)

SIDS support group talks Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) takes the lives of thousands of babies every year and leaves parents and families to grieve for a lifetime. WCNY’s May 28 Cycle of Health show features women from a group facilitated by Clemencia Molina, Regional Coordinator of the CNY Sudden Infant and Children Death Resource Center (SICDRC). The SICDRC , part of Contact Community Services, provides bereavement support and risk reduction education. Watch the SIDS segment at, minute 8:00.

North country connects with 211
April 14, 2015
(permanent link)

Since 2000, residents of Georgia and Connecticut have been using 211, the nationally authorized phone number that connects callers to nonprofit and government services offered in their community.

Since 2007, residents of Plattsburgh and communities in all but 10 New York State counties have enjoyed the same service.

And finally in February, 211 came to Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Read more »

More people call for help, info with addition of 211 hotline
April 9, 2015
(permanent link)

A shorter, more easy to remember number has yielded a higher amount of calls from people seeking help in Central New York, according to 211 CNY.

211 CNY officially launched statewide on February 11. The hotline replaced Onondaga County’s Helpline, but it performs the same function and serves more counties that include Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence.

The five counties were some of the last in New York state to be served by the hotline, which serves over 90 percent of the United States

The local hotline, which operates out of Onondaga County, helps callers find a range of social services that include shelter, mental health services and food pantries in their area.

Read more »

United Way Community Update on 211 and Contact Community Services
February 19, 2015
(permanent link)

View at YouTube

The north country welcomed 211CNY as a valuable phone and web resource for people seeking human services information. Watch news coverage from WWNY TV 7 in Watertown.

Sudden Infant and Child Death Resource Center becomes part of Contact
February 14, 2015
(permanent link)

We are proud to announce that the Sudden Infant and Child Death (SICD) Resource Center in Central New York is now part of Contact. We also welcome its regional coordinator Clemencia Molina. The center is part of a statewide program that provides support for bereaved families and educational and public awareness programs about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other causes of infant and child mortality.
Read more about SICD Center

211 Phone Service for Central and Northern New York Officially Launches on 2-11!
February 8, 2015
Press Release (PDF)
Watertown Daily Times article (PDF)
(permanent link)

Syracuse NY – United Way of Central New York, United Way of Greater Oswego County, United Way of Northern New York and Contact Community Services are pleased to announce a new 211 informational phone service for five Upstate NY counties. Contact Community Services, Inc. will act as the designated 211CNY call center, which will serve St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego and Onondaga counties. Our launch is just in time for 211 Day, on February 11, which is 211!

The 211CNY center will provide 24-hour free and confidential information about health and human services resources available in a caller’s community. Residents in the covered area can seek assistance or information on a wide range of issues, including basic needs, substance abuse, family services, mental health, legal aid, and holiday assistance.

"211 has been an important service in other regions across New York State as well as the rest of the country, so we are pleased that we will now be able to offer this service to Central and Northern New York" said Frank Lazarski, President of United Way of Central New York.

211 Phone Service for Central and Northern New York Officially Launches on  2-11

Contact Community Services’ Crisis Intervention Services Director Cheryl Giarrusso (front) talks with (from left) New York State Senator John DeFrancisco, Assemblyman Al Stirpe, Senator Dave Valesky, and Contact Executive Director Pat Leone, at the opening of the 211CNY call center at Contact.

Read more »

News Archive

Phone: 315-251-1400  
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