Mission Moment Monday: Marcel Crooks

By: Deborah Cruz

 

Right off the Jackie Robinson Highway on Cypress Ave. you can see a new towering brick-red apartment building. The building is WellLife Network’s newest addition to their housing program, a newly built 66-apartment unit building with its own parking lot. One can already see residents moving in from a distance. Leading the charge is Deputy Director of Mental Health, Marcel Crooks.

 

When I met Marcel he was finishing up a budget meeting, “nowadays I am practically jumping from meeting to meeting,” he said to me to. Marcel began his employment at WellLife nearly 11 years ago as a Direct Support Professional, or DSP, where he helped individuals 1-on-1 with their daily needs that included recreational support and hygiene. Soon afterwards, he became a Case Manager working with individuals in different capacities. Today, Marcel Crooks is the Deputy Director of Mental Health at Cypress and four other WellLife Network locations, he works overseeing day-to-day operations, budget meeting, tenant meetings, and policy vacancies.

 

 

“I think the most important thing for my community is identifying resources,” Marcel said, “many people in my community, be that Cypress or where I am from, aren’t aware of the resources that are out there and I like to help people locate those resources.” His passion is helping individuals in their current state and also preparing them for the future, which is locating food pantries, finding free/low cost mental health services, affordable daycare for children etc. For many individuals receiving benefits, it is mandatory they maintain a certain income to be eligible, if they go above that set income, they lose their benefits. This is what is known as the “benefits cliff” and can be challenging to many individuals living from paycheck to paycheck, even more challenging to those struggling with mental health challenges.

 

40 of the 66 units are identified as supportive housing for individuals with mental health challenges. Once the tenants moving in settle into their apartment Marcel and his team will begin scheduling monthly tenant meetings to discuss outpatient services, trainings, day programs, tutors for those in school, healthcare accessibility, and recreational trips. “I hold monthly meetings in all of the locations I want the tenants to get the most of out of these meetings,” Marcel said.

 

The Jamaica, Queens native said his devotion to helping individuals with mental health challenges came from his own experience. While studying for his Bachelors degree he found out that a few of his immediate family members were diagnosed with a metal health condition. Unfortunately, they were diagnosed later in adulthood, “I don’t think you realize it when you’re young or you can’t identify it,” he said, “had someone helped me identify those resources they could have received medical attention sooner.” Recently, Marcel received a commendation from the Nassau County Legislature for creating awareness for Black Men’s Mental Health and Wellness on the occasion of Breaking the ICE: The Black Men’s Mental Health and Wellness conference at Adelphi University and remains active on that matter. 

 

Marcel believes that helping individuals identify resources would help them prepare against obstacles like the “benefit cliff” or recognizing mental health struggles early on. “For me, success in a client looks like seeing them stay resilient, not give up on their goals and taking their time reaching them one by one,” the Deputy Director said, “we as a staff celebrate their small goals because that helps them look forward to the next one.”

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