Youth advocacy program opens in Winchester

The National Youth Advocate Program celebrated its opening in Winchester Wednesday.

“It’s important for the community to have programs such as this because we specialize in working with kids and have lots of resources,” said Michelle Sames, clinical supervisor at Winchester’s NYAP.

The Kentucky affiliate initially opened in Lexington last year but moved to Winchester where its services were more needed, Sames said.

NYAP is a not-for-profit organization that provides community-based services and support to children, youth and families. The national program started in 1978 and now operates in eight states. Kentucky is the newest state to be added to its list.

NYAP also offers programs in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Florida and South Carolina.

Sames said Kentucky’s child abuse rate is the second highest in the nation. Almost 20 of every 1,000 children in Kentucky are abused, according to the “Child Maltreatment 2016” report released by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Children’s Bureau.

Sames also mentioned Kentucky’s opioid epidemic.

“Clark County is right through the red zones where many people die from opioid exposure,” Sames said. “And drug abuse kind of fuels home placements.”

NYAP is also a licensed therapeutic foster care, mental health and substance abuse provider. The program offers out-of-home placement, positive youth development, reunification/permanency and prevention/intervention programs.

NYAP also provides psychiatric health assessments, individual, family and group therapy, support groups, case management, trauma-focused treatment, alcohol and drug assessments, alcohol and drug therapy and treatment for domestic abuse violence victims.

NYAP accepts private insurance or Medicaid but can also work out a payment plan on a fee-for-service basis, according to its website.

National and local NYAP chapters accept referrals for therapeutic foster care and community mental health services, provide answers for prospective foster parents and respond to after-hours concerns to anyone involved in NYAP programs, according to its website.

People can make referrals by calling the local number 859-385-4669.

The Winchester team consists of Julie Thomas, executive director; Michelle Sames; clinical supervisor; Dora Hall, a licensed clinical social worker; Sarah Beth Wells, foster care licensure; Danielle Leach, intern; and Micha Pike, administrative assistant.

Sames said Winchester’s NYAP is also creating a Youth Allies program. She said the program encourages teens from 12-18 years old, including LGBTQ+ youth to join supportive community meetings starting with the kickoff at 7 p.m. May 15.

Teens will decide on activities, locations and times for meetings. The meetings are meant to be a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth, friends, allies and supporters.

“It’s just going to be a group for us but then have a safe place to be in community,” Sames said.