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State budget allots funding for youth mental health


May is Mental Health Awareness month and the New York state budget includes $1 billion toward transforming the state's mental health care — $30 million of that is focused on children.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 6 youth age 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children between the age of 10 and 14.

Gov. Kathy Hochul stressed the need to invest in young people to help prevent mental health crises later in life.

"It's a whole different ballgame than we as adults had to deal with and we need to be understanding that," Hochul said. "You don't say, 'Well, we are tougher than you were.' You have no idea what these kids are going through. We have no clue."

Dr. Anne Reagan, a pediatric psychologist at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, notes COVID as one factor leading to increased mental health challenges in young people, but also social media, school safety and gun violence.

"Constant stress and constant thinking and overthinking of things when your brain is not yet developed to deal with all of that input," Reagan said. "That's what contributes to a lot of those struggles."

Reagan said every community needs an increase in resources — especially in a mental health crisis where the need outweighs the resources available.

" We are struggling here at the hospital to manage those crises and make plans for what that looks like for people to get the services they need," Reagan said. "There is much more of a need than can be met and people are not able to access services when it would be helpful or more preventative or action focused. It becomes very reaction focused, and the services are provided too late, because people have been waiting too long."

Hochul said she plans to convene a summit on teenage mental health next month.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.