March 3, 2017
Press Release

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – A bipartisan Task Force launched by U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) and NYS Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (129th District) in 2015 today released its final, comprehensive report outlining the largest gaps in youth behavioral and mental health services in Central New York and providing recommendations to improve access to care.

Congressman Katko and Assemblyman Magnarelli partnered to create the Youth Mental Health Task Force to address the lack of a sufficiently integrated system for child and adolescent mental health inpatient and outpatient services in Central New York.  The Task Force was made up of local mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers, leaders from the Syracuse affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), grassroots health care organizations and advocates, Central New York hospitals, and local government officials, and was tasked with assessing and improving local pediatric mental health care services. 

“This report follows two years of intensive dialogue, data collection, and study from community advocates, healthcare providers, and hospitals on the need to strengthen access to pediatric mental health care in our community,” said U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24).  “There is a dire need to improve access to pediatric mental healthcare in Central New York, and this report outlines recommendations to help overcome the barriers we face – including improving early identification of behavioral and mental health issues among children, expanding innovative and unique treatment practices,  and incentivizing healthcare providers to pursue careers in mental health care.  I am committed to working with our community partners to move these reforms forward for Central New York and I will continue to advocate for policies to address this public health crisis in Congress.”

Assemblyman Magnarelli stated, “I commend the Task Force in highlighting barriers to appropriate and essential needs of our youth with mental illness.  However, to service the needs of patients, youth mental health services must be expanded to include more community based resources.  A major factor in providing these vital services is for private insurance companies to step up and meet this challenge, as well as provide coverage for youth in our State-run facilities.”

Among the recommendations provided in this report, it outlines:

  •          The importance of streamlining data collection on the prevalence of mental illness, as current statistics vary greatly and impede the ability for practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to serve individuals in need of care.   
  •          The need to improve the administration of mental health services within the current healthcare system by increasing access to assertive community treatment, creating a continuum of care, and closing gaps in the patient hand-off process from one provider to another.
  •          The need to increase access to effective services and supports for primary and mental healthcare providers, including the expanded use of telepsychiatry, enabling open access to psychiatric centers, incentivizing core mental health professionals to pursue careers in mental healthcare, improving mental health education for primary care providers and the public, and increasing inpatient psychiatric services.
  •          An approach to improving effective crisis management and treatment, including the proper implementation of mental health crisis teams, increasing access to crisis residence programs, increasing the availability of planned and emergency respite services, strengthening home based crisis intervention, increasing the availability of specialized evidence-based outpatient treatment programs and increasing the number of community residences for adolescents in need of supervised care.
  •          A strategy to improve early diagnosis and treatment of behavioral and mental health problems, as well as the need to reduce stigmatization through education and leadership.

Upstate Medical University President Danielle Laraque-Arena, MD, FAAP, said, “I applaud U.S. Rep. John Katko and Assemblyman William Magnarelli for bringing together local and national mental health experts in fashioning this blueprint of how to improve mental health services for our children. There is not a moment to waste in moving forward and addressing these recommendations. From issues ranging from insurance coverage to access of services, we must create a system of local mental health that breaks down barriers to care and ensures that evidence-based services are available to those in need.”

"As one of the region’s major providers of behavioral health services, St. Joseph’s Health is proud to support the Youth Mental Health Task Force created by Congressman Katko and Assemblyman Magnarelli,” said Jeanette Angeloro, Director of Outpatient Behavioral Health Services at St. Joseph's.  “One in four adults, approximately 57.7 million Americans, experience a mental health disorder in a given year. The first onset of mental disorders usually occurs in childhood or adolescence.  Sadly, early detection and diagnosis of mental illness is possible, but often missed.  It is imperative that we find a better way to integrate behavioral and mental healthcare delivery using multiple settings and providers. This report offers valuable insights into the current state of adolescent mental health in Central New York and provides preliminary steps to improve mental health programs and services for local youth.”

"Oswego Health thanks U. S. Congressman John Katko and State Assemblyman William B. Magnarelli for their efforts to improve local mental health services offered to those aged 18 and younger,” said Oswego Health President and CEO Chuck Gijanto. “With the number of those requiring behavioral health services increasing, these representatives have recognized that rather than reduce services, they should be expanded and available through community-based resources. Oswego Health is addressing Oswego County’s mental health issues through its Community Service Plan and regular communication with the Office of Mental Health. We look forward to continuing to work together as we develop a comprehensive, coordinated approach to providing mental health services for our youth and their families.”

“Crouse applauds Congressman Katko’s and Assemblyman Magnerelli’s collaborative efforts in improving availability and access to substance use and mental health prevention, treatment and recovery services for Central New York youths,” stated Monika Taylor, LCSW, CASAC -Director Behavioral Health for Crouse Hospital.

ARISE CEO Tania Anderson said, “It has been an absolute pleasure for ARISE to be a partner in the Youth Mental Health Task Force working with so many talented and dedicated colleagues.  ARISE embodies the mission of the task force within our own services and is a part of many county initiatives supporting this mission.  As an Independent Living Center, ARISE has advocated for the rights of all individuals with any kind of disability since 1979.  We assist people of all ages and abilities to achieve a gratifying life experience through self-determination.  Therefore, we stand wholeheartedly behind the Youth Mental Health Task Force and its objective to improve mental health awareness, reduce barriers to treatment, and encourage collaborations.  ARISE applauds the work of the task force members in breaking down silos and reaching across the table to address an urgent community need.”

“During these complicated political times, more than ever, we need to advocate and fight for our loved ones and ourselves. The challenges facing those dealing with serious mental illness seem unsurmountable, but joining forces with so many concerned members of The Youth Mental Health Task Force has given our NAMI Syracuse members renewed hope and the ammunition to continue our mission,” stated Karen Winters Schwartz, NAMI Syracuse President. “It was refreshing to collaborate with individuals who could put their political differences aside and get something done! As president of NAMI Syracuse, I look forward to continuing working with Congressman Katko and Assemblyman Magnarelli to improve mental health care services and the lives of individuals and their families who struggle with brain disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and severe depression.”

Sheila Le Gacy, Director of the Family Support and Education Center for ACCESSCNY stated, “I am the Director of the Family Support and Education Center for ACCESSCNY.  I work with families of individuals diagnosed with serious psychiatric disorders.  I was encouraged by my participation in the Youth Mental Health Task Force and hopeful that our recommendations will become reality.  I look forward to continuing our work with Congressman Katko and Assemblyman Magnarelli to improve the delivery of mental health services to the patients and families in our community.”

The full Task Force report can be accessed here.  Going forward, the Youth Mental Health Task force will work with Rep. Katko and Assemblyman Magnarelli to implement the foregoing recommendations.