© 2021 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Youth mental health services in central NY fall short, elected officials say

Ellen Abbott

A youth mental health task force has identified some of the largest gaps in mental health services in central New York. The lawmakers who launched the study say they will now look for ways to fill those gaps.

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse) joined forces to get the facts about where local mental health services are falling short for central New York youth. The report reveals a number of needs, for things like better crisis management, earlier diagnosis, and increased access to services. Katko says much of the reason mental health issues stay under the radar is the stigma attached to these illnesses.

“We talk about cancer, and every time a new cancer drug is out it’s like nirvana, which it is. But we don’t talk anything about mental health. And we have to. We have to do it because it will literally save lives,” Katko said.

Going forward, Katko says he’ll work on the federal level to overcome some of these barriers, including things like incentivizing healthcare providers to pursue careers in mental health care.

Magnarelli says on the state level, one of the important issues is cost. There are often problems getting coverage for mental health treatment from private insurance companies, as well as spending for state-run facilities.

“We’ve got to treat it as an illness. We’ve got to say it’s an illness, and we’ve got to finance it like every other illness. And that’s what we’ll be pushing,” Magnarelli said.