© 2023 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New option in CNY for youth mental health & substance abuse treatment

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo
The official ribbon cutting on SBH's new community behavioral health clinic for adolescents

One Syracuse Health agency is trying to help fill a gap in mental health and substance abuse services in central New York for children and teens.

The shortage of services for youths in the throes of substance abuse addiction or mental health issues in central New York has been a chronic problem for years.

For Jeremy Klemanski, who is president of Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare, it was something his health care agency didn’t deal with. But the shortage became personal after friends and family came to him looking for professional help for a teen in crisis. That included his own teen-aged daughter, who was dealing with some issues, and needed help. He says even though he knew the right people to call, it took weeks to get help because there were already so many other kids already in the system.

“There’s nothing worse, as a parent, than knowing your child is suffering and you don’t know what to do for them. Or you do know what to do for them, but you can’t get them that help,” Klemanski said. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t find someone. I could find someone quickly. I have all these folks on my cell phone. The problem was, it took weeks to get in because there were so many kids in our community already in line, already with appointments. What we’re saying here is you don’t have to wait in line.”

He hopes a new clinic at SBH can ease that struggle. It opened earlier this month, and is part of a series of 13 certified community behavioral health clinics across the state that help children and adolescents with substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Klemanski says services need to be available to kids while they are still young.

“We now know if we don’t get them access to talk therapy or talk therapy with medication in some cases, if we don’t do that, there’s a significant likelihood that at some point in their life, they’re going to manifest more serious mental health disorders or significant substance abuse disorders, while they try to self medicate to treat that trauma or pain.”

Klemanski says that means walk-in help daily for anyone who needs it at SBH’s Syracuse facility, and 24/7 crisis response team for SBH patients. Klemanski says the clinic will accept patients with medicaid, private insurance, and those with no insurance at all.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.