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COVID-19 mental health impact on WNYers

Congressman announces $4 million grant for mental health services
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Posted at 6:10 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 18:10:33-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Congressman Higgins announced on Wednesday that Spectrum Health will receive a four million dollar federal grant from new crisis centers in Western New York. The funding will expand on-site and mobile substance abuse and mental health treatment services.

“Quick access to quality services is so important for families struggling with mental health or substance abuse challenges,” said Congressman Higgins. “The addition of a crisis center and expansion of a mobile response unit, led by Spectrum Health, fills a community need across the region and in underserved areas in particular.”

The CDC reports that more than 40 percent of adults have been struggling with mental health or substance abuse during the pandemic. The senior Senior Vice President of Operations at Horizon, Brandy Vandermark-Murray, tells us that number is likely under reported.

“We see that people are extremely stressed out,” Vandermark-Murray said. “The anticipated fear, the consequences of COVID, school, work life balance, all those things.”

Spectrum Human Services is also seeing an increase in patients looking for mental health services. CEO, Bruce Nisbet, said in the past 17 months, they have seen a 20-percent increase in patients.

"I think that reflects really the huge amount of anxiety and depression and need for support,” Nisbet said.

Vandermark-Murray said she's seeing more demand for services, more acceptance that treatment is appropriate for all ages, and an increase in conversations about mental health.

“National statistics show that it’s on average 11 years before people seek out help,” Vander-Murray said. “All of that stuff that was taken away from us so quickly and the changes in our life brought it to the forefront that some of us need better coping skills.”

She said Horizon Health has seen a significant increase in substance abuse with both alcohol and opioids.

“Just be mindful, if you see someone using more alcohol and ask them about it because they might not come out and say “I have mental health concerns,” she said.

You can call Erie County Crisis Services at (716)834-3131 or Niagara County Crisis Services at (716)285-3515.