Dr. Michelle R. Munson Appointed Jewish Board's Saul Z. Cohen Chair in Child and Family Mental Health

Dr. Michelle R. Munson
Dr. Michelle R. Munson

NYU Silver School of Social Work Associate Professor Michelle R. Munson, PhD, has been named the Saul Z. Cohen Chair in Child and Family Mental Health by the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, New York City’s largest provider of health and human services.

According to The Jewish Board’s Chief Clinical and Medical Officer, Dr. Paula Panzer, the Cohen Chair is a two- to three-year endowed appointment to the agency’s Martha K. Selig Educational Institute, and was first awarded in 1996. She said, “The Cohen Chair is the result of a gift from the Saul Z. and Amy S. Cohen Family Foundation in memory of Saul Z. (Bud) Cohen, who was an agency president and a longtime lay leader. It was an agency leadership decision to create a visiting scholar position with leaders in the field who would educate staff and catalyze thinking in areas of theory and practice that are innovative and cut across the spectrum of varied programs and populations.”

Dr. Munson is a widely published and internationally recognized expert in mental health services and interventions for adolescents and young adults. She directs NYU Silver’s Youth and Young Adult Mental Health Group, is on the editorial board of the journal Emerging Adulthood, and has been an invited expert reviewer of grants for the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the William T. Grant Foundation, as well of the Institute of Medicine’s influential report “Investing in the Health and Well-Being of Young Adults.”

“I am deeply honored to be appointed as The Jewish Board’s Saul Z. Cohen Chair in Child and Family Mental Health,” Dr. Munson said. “The Cohen Chair has been held by transformative leaders whom I have admired throughout my career. As Cohen Chair, I will do all that I can to honor the Cohen name and help The Jewish Board expand its capacity to work with youth and young adults in transition who have experienced challenging situations.”

Dr. Munson added, “Our partnerships between The Jewish Board and New York University have led to a number of exciting initiatives impacting families across the city. I have had the privilege to partner with The Jewish Board on a number of studies developing and testing interventions for marginalized adolescents and young adults with serious mental health conditions.”

One project on which Dr. Munson and The Jewish Board are currently collaborating is the Bridging the Gap project, for which the agency was recently awarded a $2 million, five-year grant from SAMHSA. Dr. Munson is helping The Jewish Board to implement and evaluate the program, which is designed to enhance the agency’s capacity to identify and engage New York City’s Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Questioning (LGBT) youth at risk of homelessness in its continuum of community based and residential trauma treatment. The program is slated to reach 1,000 extremely vulnerable CSEC and LGBT youth over the course of the grant period, with goals that include increasing referrals to and engagement in treatment, reducing youth trauma symptoms, improving behavioral health, increasing support from family members, decreasing nights absent from safe housing/treatment, increasing participation in positive youth development activities, and improving vocational readiness.

Also, Professor Munson was engaged to work on an award The Jewish Board received from the New York City Council. They are combining extensive qualitative evaluation and medical records review to recommend transformations for assessment, training and interventions for the health and human service systems to address the needs of transition-age youth aging out of the foster care system.

The Bridging the Gap and City Council projects directly impact service provision on a large-scale through evaluation, coupled with specified training and implementation of enhanced services for marginalized youth and young adults.

Dr. Munson characterized this major collaborative effort as, “An enormously humbling experience and unique opportunity to work together with a tremendous group of leaders and advocates who care about youth and families to help them feel better and achieve their goals in life.”