Spencer Gets Healthsmart Back On Track

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William Spencer 1

By Lora A. Gellerstein, Chief Legislative Aide to Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer

Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer and his colleagues unanimously approved legislation to restore county funding to the popular HealthSmart health education program. This program is the only county program that addresses the mental health of Suffolk County children.

“In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, I am very grateful that my colleagues agreed with me about the importance of the HealthSmart program,” stated Legislator Spencer.  “While some continue to call for further gun control, I believe in a holistic approach.  HealthSmart helps children address issues that can negatively impact their mental health, before a crisis occurs.  This is one of the most powerful tools that the County has to address risky behaviors and promote healthy lifestyles of our children.  Generally speaking, the program teaches children how to cope with stress, address bullying, improve self-esteem, and deal with life’s diversities.  Fostering basic health knowledge and healthy lifestyle skills is not only prudent but saves us money in the long run.”

The HealthSmart curriculum, which is offered by the dedicated personnel of the Suffolk County Office of Health Education, a division of the Health Department, is taught in over 50 of the 72 school districts in the County.  It is the only proactive, preventative mental health program offered by the County at this time.  It was defunded last year because of constraints in the County budget.  However, due to its success, the program is in high demand and the ever-changing curriculum needs to be updated.  As the Health Committee Chair, Legislator Spencer sponsored the resolution to move the $75,000 to HealthSmart to make the program available to other districts that have requested it.  This money was taken from a budget line that was overestimated so no new spending will take place.  The program will continue with the $75,000, volunteers and additional donated materials this year, saving the county over $425,000.

The Centers for Disease Control has endorsed this curriculum which meets and even exceeds the NYS Health Education Standards.  This program helps school districts stretch their health education money and ensures that children receive the necessary preventative health education at little or no cost to schools.

“There is nothing more important that we can teach our children than how to take care of their minds and bodies,” stated Lori Benincasa, Suffolk County Department of Health Services, Director of Preventative Education. “HealthSmart is a terrific tool that schools can use to empower our children to make healthy, positive lifestyle choices.”

“With the restoration of this money, I am confident that HealthSmart will continue to teach our children the skills to maintain good physical and mental health and to make smart choices,” said Legislator Spencer.  “As we move forward through the year, I will continue to work tirelessly to make sure this program remains alive and vibrant in the County this year and for many years to come for as little cost as possible.  Our children are worth the investment.”

By Lora A. Gellerstein, Chief Legislative Aide to Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer

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One Response to Spencer Gets Healthsmart Back On Track

  1. Good job by Dr. Spencer and the County Legistlature regarding an important issue. Thanks for posting this item.

    wundaboy
    March 10, 2013 9:50 am at 9:50 am

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