BUFFALO, N.Y. — In her State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said mental health services have been underfunded for far too long.
With one-third of the state either seeking mental health care or knowing someone who has since the start of the pandemic, the governor made it clear that New Yorkers need help, and they need it now.
That is why she announced what she believes will be the most significant change since the deinstitutionalization era of the 1970s, pledging $1 billion toward mental services, including 1,000 new psychiatric beds and 3,500 housing units supported by mental health services.
They are additions that mental health professionals here in Buffalo say are especially needed after all the tragedy the city has experienced in the past year.
“Sometimes people get caught in the psychiatric emergency room because they have no beds or anywhere else to go to,” said Melinda DuBois, Executive Director of Mental Health Advocates of Western New York. “So the services have not been adequate for a long time. And it's wonderful that the governor recognizes that there's this huge gap.”
While experts say this is a big step for the state and region, they also say that the governor's plan still doesn't address the major workforce shortage that they believe will continue even after the proposed plan goes into effect.
“I really view a lot of mental health professionals as first responders, and they need some relief here,” DuBois said. “They're doing a really difficult job and working with people so closely, and there's a high burnout rate. And we have to recognize that and do something different within the system to allow for the workforce to be able to work the best way they can.”