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LGBT Center Gets State Funding to Help Teens With Substance Abuse

 The LGBT Center is getting funding to create programs specifically to help young people with substance-abuse issues.
The LGBT Center is getting funding to create programs specifically to help young people with substance-abuse issues.
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WEST VILLAGE — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is funding "clubhouses" across the state for teens with substance abuse problems — with more than $500,000 slated for the West Village's LGBT Center.

The Center, as it's known, has long served as a haven for the LGBT community and helps thousands of people weekly with substance abuse issues, said social worker Carrie Davis, the organization's chief programs and policy officer.

While the building at 208 W. 13th St. has long welcomed teens and young adults, it has never before had the resources to create a substance-abuse program specifically for that population. 

Momo Ullah, 23, has sought refuge at The Center since he was 16 years old and said the dedicated funding "is the best thing I ever heard."

Ullah turned to drugs as a teen as he struggled with coming to terms with his sexuality, amid family issues, bullying and "all the other things that young gay adults or young teens go through," he said.

"It was my way of finding peace within myself," Ullah explained. "It was something that I believed was going to help me at that point — until I started losing everything."

Ullah said he dropped out of high school, moved out of his home and took up with "somebody who was the worst influence in my life."

He credits The Center with showing him how to make better decisions and connect with others.

"It was my sanctuary," he said. "I had a family here."

Of the $1.6 million in state funding, The Center received $250,000 for its clubhouse, plus an additional $275,000 for a new outpatient treatment program specifically designed for LGBT adolescents, offering individual, group and family counseling, as well as peer support.

The Center had a recovery program for adults, but Ullah never felt like he would belong.

He believes the new programming will keep teens and young adults from doing things that will "spiral them down," as well as helping them use The Center's resources to improve their lives.

"It's because of The Center that today I'm a college student," he said. "I have my GED. I have a job. I'm connecting other youth members to jobs. That is my passion, and I gained this passion by coming here."

Peer support is critical to the state's "clubhouse" model, said Arlene González-Sánchez, commissioner of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS).

"LGBT young people who have experienced addiction will be able to guide their peers in successful strategies to overcome addiction and maintain a path towards recovery," she said.

The clubhouse at The Center will be one of seven across the state, but the only one in New York City.