Mental Health Planning Needed

Dear Editor:

In August, the NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) issued a request for proposals to add 10 new Youth Assertive Community Treatment teams around the state. Once contracts are awarded, children in 17 counties will have access to the Medicaid-funded program, which features a psychiatrist, licensed mental health counselors, care coordination, peer support and other in-home supports for children and their families. The Hudson Valley children who can access the new service must live in Westchester, Albany, Schenectady, Warren, Washington or Saratoga counties. Sadly, youth in Rockland, Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia and Greene counties are left out.

Let’s ensure the expansion and investment in children’s mental health services meets the needs of every county. For starters, the request for proposal process should be revised to close geographic gaps in services and clinical practitioner shortages, and address family homelessness, rises in suicide rates and emergency department presentation instead of population. Let’s also add metrics on the communities and families hardest hit by COVID-19 fatalities, illnesses, and infections to ensure we are reducing the long-term impact of the pandemic on children as best we can.

Yvette Bairan

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