BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — New York Attorney General Letitia James hosted a mental health forum in Buffalo on Wednesday.
With so many serious problems facing West New York in the past year, many are wondering if there are enough resources available.
The need for more mental health resources was a theme covered throughout the forums. The state’s top prosecutor says he aims to improve the system and bring about reforms.
“We are trying to eradicate areas of dysfunction, discuss potential avenues for reform, bring it to the right individuals or, in the case of our office, pursue it legally,” said James. said.
It’s been a year of unimaginable events at WNY, from a once-in-a-generation blizzard to a racist mass shooting. A house fire on New Year’s Eve killed his five children and sent Damar Hamlin into cardiac arrest. Many are wondering what is being done to address the mental health crisis.
“One of the biggest obstacles we face is the relentless decline in the number of inpatient psychiatric beds available to the most vulnerable,” said James.
The Attorney General has said more than 800 psychiatric beds statewide have not returned since the pandemic began. It proposed adding psychiatric beds and creating 3,500 housing units for those in need of mental health care.
What Brandon Orr would like to see is more resources. His sister Jennifer passed away two months ago after years of battling mental health issues.
“She was amazing and lit up every room she entered with a big smile and one of her famous hugs,” Orr said.
The Attorney General also noted how mental health services are being delivered within ECMC’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP), as reported by News 4 Investigates.
“We hear stories of children being left behind in emergency departments because of behavioral or mental health problems. They are understaffed with poor community-based alternatives and services. I’m stranded in the hospital because of it,” James said.
One of the problems CPEP faces is the inability to discharge patients to community organizations. ECMC says it is working with state nurses associations to fill vacancies, and ECMC is temporarily hiring traveling nurses.
“Often, it’s because we can’t release individuals who need it. They have nowhere to go to the community and they can’t release themselves. It’s a concern that our Department of Mental Health is monitoring. Erie County Administration Officer Mark Polonkers said:
Poloncarz adds that the Erie County Office of Health Equity will begin offering mental health first aid training to 2,000 people in the coming weeks.
On Thursday, News 4 Investigates will examine patient care at CPEP.
Here are some local mental health resources, including Erie County SMART, Crisis Services, and agencies Erie County partners with. You can also submit your own testimony from this link.
Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. Learn more about his work here..