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Oswego facility applauds state plan to improve mental health services

Oswego Health

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to bolster mental health services across the state is getting high marks from some local facilities.

Jamie Leszczynski, the senior vice president of communications at Oswego Health, said she lost her brother to suicide 20 years ago. When she heard Gov. Hochul name increased access to mental health services as one of her top priorities in her State of the State address, Leszczynski said it meant a lot to her.

"It was a pretty emotional reaction, honestly, to have this be at the forefront,” she said. “Because it is something that's impacting so many communities, so many families, across New York state, across the entire country."

Dr. Omar Colon is the medical director of behavioral health at Oswego Health’s Lakeview Center for Mental Health and Wellness. He said since the pandemic, the need for services has spiked and just continues to grow. Anxiety and depression are the most common illnesses providers are treating, and many patients need care right away.

"Being able to get those resources as fast as possible is very important,” said Colon. “(Anxiety and depression) can be very demanding, and the condition can be very devastating in people's life."

In 2021, Oswego Health treated nearly 1,300 inpatients for mental health concerns, and more than 27,000 outpatients. More than 100 children and 325 adults are on the waiting list for care.

It’s a challenge that’s common across the state. That’s why Gov. Hochul said she’s creating a multi-year plan to help, including expanding outpatient services, increasing insurance coverage for mental health services, and adding 1,000 beds for inpatient treatment.

Leszczynski said sometimes patients have to be transferred out of state due to the lack of resources, so she’s hopeful assistance will be coming to Oswego.

“That's what I'm really most excited about,” she said. “Those individuals that need treatment, how can we get access to care quicker and keep them in their communities?"

But even with the shortage, Leszczynski and Colon encourage patients to reach out to their doctors for help when they need it or call the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.