BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — “Nothing like playing on the home field every once in a while,” Gov. Kathy Hochul greeted the crowd as she took the stage at the Delavan Grider Community Center in Buffalo.

According to the Governor, one in three New Yorkers have sought mental health care since the start of the COVID pandemic.

“Young people are reporting distress unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Hochul, who later spoke on the suicidal ideations of young people, said.

“This is more than a call to action,” Hochul said. “It is a moral imperative to do something to help our people. These are God’s children.”

During Monday’s visit to her native Erie County, Hochul discussed the state’s billion-dollar budget allocation for mental health care expansion.

Noting that three of New York’s 13 certified behavioral health clinics are here in Western New York (BestSelf, Endeavor, Spectrum Health & Human Services) the plan is to triple that number to 39 across the stae this year alone — a tenet which was met by applause by the those in attendance. That audience included Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, as well as Common Council members Ulysses Wingo and Christopher Scanlon.

“We see all across the country, and here in our state, more and more people dealing with mental health issues, struggling with mental health issues,” Brown said. “Oftentimes in communities across our state and across the country, the police officer becomes the first responder because people don’t know what to do when they see people out in the community in crisis. In Buffalo, we have created a unique co-responder model where police officers respond with clinicians from Endeavor Health Services. The clinician is the lead in the response. We don’t want to criminalize people who are dealing with mental health issues.”

Brown says that since the Buffalo Police Department’s Behavioral Health Team was created, the city has responded to thousands of mental health calls without incident.

The $229 billion New York State budget, which was due on April 1, was passed by state lawmakers on the night of May 2, just over a month late. A breakdown of the budget of includes the following:

  • $890 million for developing new residential units
  • $120 million in annual operating costs for those units
  • $25 million in capital and $7.3 million annually to increase operational capacity for inpatient psychiatric treatment
  • $60 million in capital and $121.6 million annually to expand outpatient services
  • $28 million annually to improve post-discharge connections to services through the creation of 50 new Critical Time Intervention care coordination teams
  • $30 million annually to expand mental health services in schools

Hochul’s visit to Buffalo comes approximately one week before the anniversary of the Jefferson Avenue Tops mass shooting, where 10 people were killed and three others were injured in a racially-motivated attack.

According to online database Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 200 mass shootings in the United States this year alone.

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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.