Schenectady’s Mohawk Opportunities educates about mental illness and homelessness

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SCHENECTADY – Mohawk Opportunities, Inc. is on a mission to raise awareness about mental illness through education and transparency of their mission, according to the nonprofit group’s executive director.

“I think once that happens, people who feel the stigma can take the risk and engage in treatment because there’s more acceptance about it in the community,” said Steve Klein, the organization’s executive director, about the Schenectady-based organization that was founded in 1985. “If we can also raise funds through this from people who become sensitive and supportive of our mission, that would be great.”

Klein said that when he took over in the summer of 2021, the board also tasked him with growing the agency, expanding services to meet increased demand, and formulating a plan “ forward thinking that could take the organization to the next level.”

“The primary mission of Mohawk Opportunities is to provide support and services to people with mental illness to help them recover and achieve stability and happiness in their lives,” he said.

Mohawk Opportunities, Inc.

  • 201 Nott Terrace, Schenectady
  • 518-374-8424


A big part of that, Klein said, is finding homeless people a safe place to live and thrive until they can live independently.

“Once someone is stable in housing, and we helped them through treatment, making sure they take their medication, they become a kind of ordinary person,” he said. he adds.

In some cases, an upsetting or traumatic event can cause a person to stop taking their medication, allowing their mental illness to manifest.

“Trauma is a very important area that we study and train our staff to understand the impact of trauma on people’s behaviors and mental illness, and then there are also biological and chemical imbalances in the brain,” did he declare.

Klein said serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolarity, depression and personality disorders are “disorders of the mind” that “make the world different for them because of their brain chemistry” .

A large number of people struggling with mental illness are also drug and/or alcohol addicts and are homeless, he said.

People seeking help for a mental illness can contact the office directly to find out what services are available. Mohawk also receives referrals from county and non-profit groups that help the homeless or those struggling with addiction.

With a projected operating budget of $10.5 million for next year, Mohawk has nearly 100 staff ranging from psychiatrists to nurses to social workers at sites in Schenectady which houses an outpatient facility and administrative offices as well as four group homes serving 43 people, all located within a five-minute drive of the Electric City offices.

One of the residences is a crisis residence that can accommodate a dozen people, for people coming out of homelessness or prison who often require more intensive care and services. Klein said the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more people seeking their services.

“There is this perfect storm of increased need, more people needing the services because either they are experiencing mental illness for the first time or their mental illness has been exacerbated by the stress of the pandemic,” did he declare.

At the same time, there are fewer clinicians and fewer patient beds, the latter due to staffing shortages.

“We try to really support our staff, not just financially, but we do a lot of agency events as perks for our staff,” he said, adding that once a month he delivers breakfast. breakfast, lunch and dinner to employees and customers. .

In late October, Mohawk hosted an Employee Appreciation Day with pancake breakfast.

“We do our best to make our staff feel really good about their jobs, feel like part of a team, feel part of the organization, and that’s part of what we call our caring culture,” said said Klein, adding that they serve more than 500 customers a year.

The group is working with a property development company and is looking for a suitable location for what will be 16 new homes. Once construction is complete, a state grant of $400,000 will help cover the cost of providing services to occupants of the new residences.

Through a special federal grant, Mohawk also provides housing subsidies to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and their families.

Klein said one of the ambitious long-term goals is for the organization to open a state-of-the-art behavioral health care center that would be accessible to community groups helping people with mental illness who would be disabled and accessible. to people with disabilities.

While it also hopes to do more fundraising, the group relies heavily on federal funding, including Mediacid and HUD, which is supplemented by state and county money.

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