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Madison County launches mental health task force amid increase in crisis calls


As of May 11, Madison County has had 614 calls to their mental health crisis line so far this year. That’s over 3 times the amount of calls they got in the entire year 2019. 

Teisha Cook, the county’s Director of Mental Health, said there’s something unique about the calls they’ve been getting.

“A lot of the calls and the new clients that we're getting requests for services from are people that have never had mental health treatment before,” said Cook.

She said the diversity among their callers has been remarkable. From college students to struggling parents, everyone seems to be searching for help.

“I know early in the pandemic, we got a lot of calls during the school day from frazzled parents who couldn't corral their kids to do online schooling and we're frustrated,” she said.


Of course, they do also get calls from people experiencing suicidal thoughts. 

“In those cases, maybe we dispatch mobile crisis or send the police out,” said Cook.

In response, Madison County launched a mental health task force. County Chairman John Becker said the main purpose of the task force is to assess the community’s needs and develop a plan to adequately address them.

“We want to do everything we can to make sure that people have the services they need,” said Becker. “And we understand what's going on in the community so that we can bring them the best service and the best quality of services that we can and we can help them.”

Becker said Madison County’s task force will start by talking with community members in a multitude of situations to identify where they’re struggling and create a report they can work off of. Becker said he expects this to be a lengthy process.

“This is a long-term, not a short-term group that we put together,” he said. “It's probably going to be together for, you know, at least three or four years.”

Madison County isn’t the only county addressing the mental health of its community. In March, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced the county’s plan to provide more mental health services to school-age kids struggling with remote learning among other things. 

This came after Onondaga County also saw a rise in mental health crisis calls. According to McMahon, the county saw a 12.6% increase in calls from 2019 to 2020 and an additional 15% increase so far in 2021. 

“There's no reason to be embarrassed if you need help, we all need to kind of step up and lead in the space so that people get the help they need,” said McMahon.

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis please reach out to one or more of the following numbers:

Madison County 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Line: 315-366-2327


Onondaga, Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties: 211


Oneida County 24/7 Mobile Crisis Assessment Team: 315-732-6228 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255


Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.