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Schumer pushes for release of $5 billion for mental health services

Ellen Abbott
WRVO Public Media
Sen. Charles Schumer speaks with Madison County workers.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wants to get federal funds earmarked for mental health services into the hands of local governments as quickly as possible. He made the call for help in Madison County, where mental health issues have skyrocketed.

Schumer said the need is critical in Madison County, evidenced by a surge of calls related to mental health.

"They got 192 calls in 2019; that was a typical pre-covid year,” Schumer said. “They got 485 calls in 2020. Now, it’s only May and they’ve gotten 614 calls already, more than last year."

Schumer said there’s $5 billion in federal funds for what he calls a mental-health pandemic. It will help on a number of fronts, including expanded mobile mental health units and funds specifically earmarked for young people and health care providers. Madison County has created a Mental Health Task Force to determine how to best meet the demand. Madison County Board of Supervisors Chair John Becker said over the next year, it will survey the community about what kinds of services are needed.

"And after that year I envision different silos, like the schools,” Becker said. “We’ll sit down with schools and look at students, parents and educators. Then we might move on to veterans, small business."

The only bright spot in all of this according to Teisha Cook, Director of Madison County Mental Health Services, is struggling central New Yorkers have become more willing to call experts and ask for help.

"We did start to see that in the middle of the pandemic, when you had moms calling when they couldn’t get their kids on remote learning, and college students whose lives were turned upside down,” Cook said. “We’re seeing populations that we didn’t historically see."

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.