NYS Office of Mental Health Announces Partnerships to Reimagine Mental Health and Improve Access to Services

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From The NYS Office of Mental Health:

The NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) today announced a new awareness campaign and partnership with non-profit organizations and advocacy groups to help New Yorkers better understand mental health issues and the services available.  The awareness campaign was among the recommendations of Governor Cuomo’s Reimagine New York Commission, which is exploring ways to make New York stronger and more resilient in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  One of the primary focuses of the Commission is improving access to healthcare, including mental health services.

The awareness campaign encourages partner organizations to reach out to their constituents, employees and others in their network with educational materials developed by OMH, including fliers, posters, infographics and social media content. Expert staff at OMH will also be available to support participants’ efforts.  

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “By working with not-for-profit partners in the community, we hope to reach people who have been particularly hard-hit and overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the anxiety and stress it has caused. We also hope to change the dialogue about mental health, to fight the outdated stigmas, and educate people that mental health is as important as physical health, and that there is absolutely no shame or weakness in seeking mental health services.”

Some of the educational materials available are targeted to specific vulnerable groups that have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 virus, including African American and Hispanic communities, older New Yorkers and those who live in rural regions of the state.  The agencies serving these groups can make a significant impact on their health by reaching out and helping to spread the word about mental health issues and services.

Becky Preve, Executive Director of The Association on Aging in New York, said, “We are pleased and excited to partner to ensure that New York’s older residents have access to vitally important mental health resources. New York ranks fourth in the nation for population over 60 and has been impacted significantly through the pandemic. This partnership ensures that resources are available to our most vulnerable population, and the network of 59 Area Agencies on Aging in NY are working to reach all older residents with this important resource. We are so thankful to Governor Cuomo, the Office of Mental Health, the Schmidt Foundation, and the variety of other stakeholders that brought this project to fruition.”

Max Hadler, Director of Health Policy at New York Immigration Coalition, said, “Many New Yorkers are struggling with the impact of the pandemic on their families and livelihoods. That’s why it’s essential that we do everything possible to support immigrant communities with linguistically and culturally responsive mental health services. Crisis response options such as the state’s Project Hope Emotional Support Helpline are important access points for immediate help and will lay the groundwork for the state’s recovery. We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo to build upon this vital effort and ensure that all New Yorkers have access to affordable ongoing mental health care and coverage regardless of immigration status.”

Frankie Miranda, President and CEO of Hispanic Federation, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on the mental health of New Yorkers, particularly communities of color which were hardest hit by illness, death, and loss of economic security. With the difficulties Latinos already face when accessing healthcare, it is critical that the state take a proactive approach to providing needed mental health care by working with community-based organizations. Hispanic Federation is proud to partner with Reimagine New York to ensure that this recovery is equitable and complete.”

Beth Finkel, New York State Director for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) said, “More than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives. We all need to remember that we can get help. This campaign to raise awareness of available State resources will make a real difference in many older New Yorkers’ lives, and AARP New York is proud to participate.”

Elisabeth R. Benjamin, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York, said, “The Community Service Society of New York and the Community Health Access to Addiction and Mental Healthcare Project (CHAMP) are proud to partner with Governor Cuomo, OMH and OASAS  to ensure that New Yorkers with mental health or substance use issues—especially low-income communities of color—have a place to turn when they face insurance or payment barriers to accessing care.  New Yorkers can also call our toll-free confidential helpline at:  888-614-5400.”

Sharon McMullen, Assistant Vice President of Student & Campus Life for Health and Wellbeing at Cornell University, said “Our university is a microcosm of the world and we see the toll that issues like systemic racism, political unrest, and an economic downturn have had on individuals, families, and communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp relief the shared need to support mental health and well-being in every sector. We applaud the Reimagine New York Commission for its comprehensive vision. This is an important time to cultivate hope and to share resources with those who are struggling.”

Nancy Harvey, Chief Executive Officer of Service Program for Older People, Inc. (SPOP) said, “We are proud to partner with the Reimagine Commission in this important campaign.  As one of the nation’s largest and longest-standing agencies dedicated exclusively to community-based behavioral health care for older adults, SPOP has over 40 years’ experience keeping older New Yorkers healthy and safe.  We understand the interplay between physical health and emotional well-being, and we have developed strategies to reach out to isolated, vulnerable and frail adults throughout New York City.   We believe that mental health care information, treatment and support should be available to all New Yorkers.”

Adam Hughes, State Extension Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension and Co-Associate Director of Advocacy and Engagement with the Cornell Center for Health Equity, said, “Mental health services are crucial to the health and well-being of communities across New York State. Cornell Cooperative Extension is a great system to partner with as our mission is to put knowledge to work to better the lives of people and communities in New York, coupled with the fact we have offices in every county of the state.”

OMH’s community partners will explore other ways to serve their members and community by:

  • Committing to engaging the community in positive conversations on mental health through newsletters, guest speakers, advertising space, webinars, discussion forums, and the promotion of mental health resources:
  • Educating client-facing employees on available mental health resources and how to identify signs of potential mental health needs so they can assist individuals in need and refer them to care;
  • Encouraging all client-facing employees to be trained in mental health first aid;
  • Engaging employees in open, non-judgmental discussions to share experiences and information on mental health;
  • Committing to increasing education and visibility of mental health issues in their office or workplace
  • Offering robust behavioral health benefits to their employees, and ensuring they understand and are aware of these benefits;
  • Allowing employees to take time off work for mental health reasons, including travel to mental health appointments.

About the Reimagine Commission

Created by Governor Andrew Cuomo and chaired by Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and Executive Chairman and co-founder of Schmidt Futures, the State’s 16-member commission is helping to identify tools to build back a better and more resilient New York with greater opportunity for all.

The Commission’s primary focus has been is on increasing opportunity in three essential ways: reducing the digital divide, improving access to telehealth, and creating more and better employment in an increasingly digital economy. The Reimagine Commission has engaged with community organizations across New York State to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of New Yorkers – in particular amongst vulnerable communities. 

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