North Merrick Everyday Health

November 2019

North Merrick Launches Innovative Mental Health and Wellness Coalition

In response to the New York State Mental Health Mandate, Dr. Cynthia Seniuk, Superintendent of Schools, has announced the formation of the new North Merrick Mental Health and Wellness Coalition. The coalition is comprised of parents, teachers, staff, health professionals and community members who will mobilize at the local level to make our community safer, healthier, and more resilient. The coalition is led by Todd Benjamin, licensed social worker, BOCES consultant and private practitioner, who joins North Merrick from the Jericho School District. He has extensive experience in coalition building, counseling services, clinical student evaluations, and staff and parent workshops.

Look for Upcoming Newsday Article on the Coalition!

Newsday has been in North Merrick talking to administrators, board members and parents about the Mental Health and Wellness Coalition and will include coverage in an upcoming article on ground-breaking initiatives by school districts to address the New York State Mental Health Mandate. Find it soon at

Coalition Happenings

Counseling Services as Another Level of Care

The district health team - Assistant to the Superintendent for Pupil Services Dr. Edward Murphy, school psychologists, social workers, nurses and principals - will refer students and families, when appropriate, to Mr. Benjamin as a second level of support. Mr. Benjamin will either refer these students and families to community or private providers or meet with them in after- and before-school sessions. The sessions will be held on Mondays from 3:30-4:30 p.m. and Wednesdays from 7:30-8:30 a.m., alternating the location among the three district schools. There is no additional charge for the in-district counseling.
Big picture

The Illness-Wellness Continuum

At the first coalition meeting, members discussed the importance of the Illness-Wellness Continuum for everyone:

  • The continuum is a graphical illustration of a well-being concept first proposed by Dr. John Travis in 1972. It proposes that well-being includes mental and emotional health as well as the presence or absence of illness.
  • Moving to the left shows a progressively worsening state of health while moving to the right indicates increasing levels of health. The treatment paradigm (therapy, medication and other interventions) can return you up to the neutral point, where illness is alleviated.
  • The wellness paradigm can be utilized at any point on the continuum and can help you move toward higher levels of wellness.
  • The paradigm directs you beyond neutral and encourages you to move as far to the right as possible.