ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – It’s mental health awareness month and New York State lawmakers are looking at ways to better improve policies and initiatives to reach those who need help. Today they’re holding a joint legislative hearing on the issue.
Starting July 2022, the number 9-8-8 will be the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. And, right now states across the country including New York are having discussions about the infrastructure. The Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health says an implementation plan is due by the end of December.
“A critical first step is a reliable telephone call system that connects the person in crisis to a counselor and services as needed,” said New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie Sullivan.
Right now the state is also in the process of expanding crisis stabilization centers as an alternative place for those with mental health needs to go to rather than a hospital. In testimony submitted for the hearing Glenn Liebmann with the Mental Health Association in New York State said, “Currently, there are only a few Centers like this in New York, but the hope is that with this new Budget language, there will be many more in place.”
Lawmakers are hoping that there will be a boost to mobile crisis teams as well. Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther recalled a recent instance outside the Capitol where a friend of hers was in crisis and needed help.
“We thought wow, we’ll call for emergency help, the closest mobile crisis center… was 50 minutes away. 50 minutes away,” said Gunther.
The Commissioner says right now about 50 counties have “some degree” of mobile crisis availability, but that response times do vary. In New York suicide is the 12th leading cause of death according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.