Families in Southern Berkshire County have a new partner providing free access to everything from parenting support groups and social activities to child development playgroups and homework help.

The Great Barrington Family Resource Center (FRC), a program of Clinical & Support Options, opens this month inside the historic Whiting House (formerly home to the Shoppers Guide) at 141 West Avenue. It will be open weekdays (and some weekends) to provide free multi-cultural parenting and kid-friendly programs, mental health needs assessment, job/housing referrals, and school-focused help for families whose children range in age from birth to 18 years.

Massachusetts Family Resource Centers have been operating since 2015, with FRCs in each of the state’s 14 counties. Berkshire County, for example, has already-established locations in North Adams and Pittsfield. CSO has operated the Amherst FRC since 2015.

In Great Barrington, the grant for a new FRC was awarded to nonprofit behavioral health agency Clinical & Support Options Inc. (CSO), which operates fully licensed mental health clinics throughout Western Mass., including a Pittsfield clinic at 877 South Street. CSO is part of the Massachusetts Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI), providing in-home therapy, therapeutic mentoring, and other family support services.

According to CSO President & CEO Karin Jeffers, the Great Barrington FRC comes at a time of great need. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing many families facing financial and housing challenges,” she says. “They’re trying to figure out how to line up childcare, how to oversee their children’s distanced learning. And, quite frankly, we’re seeing families in need of social connection. The new Great Barrington FRC staff is amazing, and they can help with all of those concerns.”

Leading the staff will be Jason Godfrey, himself a Berkshire resident. He is a family support worker with more than 15 years’ experience in human services.

“Heading up the new Great Barrington FRC is so thrilling for me,” Godfrey says. “It’s truly the culmination of all my skills, training, and experience. But what I’m most excited about is leading an energetic team in providing local families with free access to life-changing resources.”

What You'll Find at the FRC

Family Resource Centers, like CSO’s new location on West Ave., are designed to be accessible solutions for families seeking health, safety, educational and employment services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, all of these services continue, but many are available remotely.

CSO’s team at the Great Barrington FRC are trained and ready to help local families with a broad range of concerns, including:

· Career — Find help looking for employment, exploring career options, and discovering which jobs are a good fit.

· Child Care — Attend parenting groups with onsite child care.

· Early Childhood — Develop positive parenting skills that will improve a child’s growth and development. Participate in playgroups and activities.

· Education — Get study support for adult GED testing.

· Family Support — Obtain direct assistance or referrals to groups that promote family unity and successful life skills.

· Financial — Attend workshops and consultations to manage a budget, save for the future, or repair credit.

· Housing — Navigate the system to find ways of meeting housing needs.

· Legal — Get help working with local juvenile courts to identify services for youth.

· LGBTQ — Join supportive, social networking groups for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer teens and families.

· Medical — Identify potential medical services.

· Mental Health — Engage in an atmosphere of support and wellness, with clinical referrals available.

· Peer Support — Connect and learn from other parents/guardians, grandparents, and youth.

· School Services, Homework Help & Special Ed — Ensure children receive the support and resources they need with homework, school plans, and more.

· Recovery Resources — Access local support groups. Connect with outpatient and/or residential treatment programs.

The Great Barrington FRC, a program of CSO, is located at 141 West Avenue. It is open for appointment and walk-in service weekdays (and some weekends). Call 413-834-1128 or send an email to Director Jason Godfrey at Jason.Godfrey@csoinc.org.

About Clinical Support Options (CSO)

Clinical & Support Options Inc. (CSO) is a community-based nonprofit behavioral health agency providing individuals and families with comprehensive holistic clinical and support services throughout Western Massachusetts. With 17 locations throughout five counties (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Worcester/North Quabbin), CSO serves nearly 18,000 clients annually with a wide range of responsive and effective interventions and mental health, addiction and recovery, and family services. Visit csoinc.org for more information.

(press release sent to WSBS from Clinical Support and Options (CSO) for online and on-air use)

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