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UpStreet hosts groundbreaking event to unveil new youth space

Community partners, government representatives, local therapists, social service providers, and students gathered on Tuesday morning for the groundbreaking of the JFCS’s UpStreet youth drop-in space. Construction is set to start in the coming weeks and the space will open in the Summer!

With the launch of UpStreet in October 2020, JFCS created a model that removed all barriers to mental health support for young adults (ages 12-22) and their families – free of charge with access anywhere, anytime at upstreetpgh.org. UpStreet in Squirrel Hill, to be located in the former Forward Lanes, down the street from Taylor Allderdice High School, will expand the model with a physical space for teens and young adults to access UpStreet’s mental health resources quickly, easily, and without cost. 

No one seemed to notice the scaffolding ready for construction or dusty bare floors as the atmosphere on Tuesday was buzzing with excitement –  everyone enjoyed a quick trip down memory lane with classic bowling alley foods, including soft pretzels, candy, and more! A staged area with couches, UpStreet therapeutic videos, and an online chat demo gave attendees a chance to imagine the future vision for the space. And UpStreet therapeutic staff led an interactive project collecting messages of hope and encouragement that will be curated for an installation at the grand opening in the Summer. 

JFCS COO Dana Gold opened the groundbreaking event with the history and vision for UpStreet. “When UpStreet launched in October of 2020, so many of us were struggling at that time–especially our youth. Nationwide, teen mental health is still a crisis, with over 20% of teens struggling. And where do they go to find the answers they need? Their phones!” she said. “With the launch of UpStreet, JFCS created a model that removed all barriers for mental health support–no insurance needed, no fees, and right on your phone.”

She expanded on the vision for the new drop-in space. “Now, in addition to our virtual services, UpStreet will have a safe space for teens to go to get support in person,” Gold explained. “Our vision is to give as many teens and young adults as possible the opportunity for better, brighter futures.”

Asha Edson, a current college student and founding member of UpStreet’s Youth Advisory Board, spoke about the importance of the drop-in space. “All of us in this room have been a teen before or are currently a teen–we know how hard it is to manage school, relationships, friends, the future, family, and everything else teens have to deal with,” Edson said. “Getting therapy shouldn’t be another burden on their shoulders, and that’s why a service like UpStreet is so important and so helpful to teens and young adults.”

JFCS hopes that the new space will continue to keep barriers to mental health services low for teens and young adults while providing much-needed in-person support. Erin Barr, UpStreet Clinical Coordinator, emphasized this mission, both online and in the future drop-in space, saying, “They don’t need an appointment, they don’t need to be a client, they don’t even need to leave their house. Just show up and chat with us. Soon, there will also be the option to show up here, in this space.” She also announced that in addition to mental health services, teens would also be able to meet with youth career counselors to get help preparing for life after high school, exploring possible careers, and even planning for college. 

JFCS President and CEO Dr. Jordan Golin wrapped up the event with some final words about the future of UpStreet. “I’m proud to see Pittsburgh as a leader in developing innovative approaches for addressing this crisis through the work of JFCS and so many other important organizations in our community,” he expressed. He also thanked UpStreet’s funders and partners for their commitment to helping JFCS improve and expand teen mental health services, including the work of architect Matt Dierson, who is designing the space, and Brandywine staff John Katz and Jamison Combs, who manage the property

UpStreet is supported by Eden Hall Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Henry L. Hillman Foundation, Jack Buncher Foundation, Snee-Reinhardt Charitable Foundation, Massey Charitable Trust, Highmark/Allegheny Health Network, Donald and Sylvia Robinson Family Foundation, Goldston Teen Philanthropy Project, Verizon, and past funders Jewish Healthcare Foundation, Staunton Farm Foundation, and the Jewish Women’s Foundation. 

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