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Champlain residents recognized for support of mental health services

PLATTSBURGH - Behavioral Health Services North has once again crowned a king and queen of their annual Mardi Gras North gala. This year, the honor went to John H. and Mary Zurlo of Champlain.

The Zurlos were recognized for their support of mental health services during the organization's annual dinner at Anthony's Restaurant and Bistro Feb. 22.

BHSN chief executive officer Harry Cook introduced the Zurlos, commending them for being committed to the community for many years. Their support of mental health organizations, he said, dates back to their careers as educators with the Northeastern Clinton Central School District. Mr. Zurlo served as a high school business teacher for 34 years, before retiring in 1994, while Mrs. Zurlo taught high school social studies for 32 years until her retirement in 1997.

"Having been educators, the Zurlos have the insight and knowledge to understand the needs of children and also understand how problems at the elementary school level can easily become more difficult issues when in high school," said Cook.

The Zurlos were surprised when they first learned a few weeks ago they were to be honored. Though they continually support BHSN programs and activities, being retired from the educational field for several years, they didn't see themselves as the first ones on the list to be recognized by the organization.

"But, this honor is especially meaningful for us," said Mr. Zurlo. "We dealt with people at risk in our careers as educators on a daily basis. We know first-hand what problems are out there and we understand the needs of people with mental health issues."

"We saw a lot of that when we were teaching, that's why we have such in interest in helping kids at risk," Mrs. Zurlo added.

The Zurlos' honor ties in with the organization's most recent commitment to early childhood intervention services, said Cook. BHSN is working with the Clinton County Community Services Board to pursue a multi-year initiative that would develop the best practices in "the assessment, treatment, and recovery of young children who have been exposed to abuse and neglect."

"We'll be working with young children and preschoolers in their early years to give them a better trajectory in life, so they're no spending their twenties, thirties and forties in [mental health] programs," said Cook.

"I think it's wonderful BHSN has put effort into helping younger children because there are a lot of younger kids who need that help," said Mrs. Zurlo. "That's the age when they need to have it. Not when they're teenagers."

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