Onondaga County investing millions into mental health for school children

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CICERO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon paid a visit to the library at Cicero-North Syracuse High School Friday morning to make an announcement on mental health funding.

The county is investing $5.5 million to make sure each school in the county has the proper resources when it comes to mental health. McMahon used the following graphic to explain how the money will be distributed.

Overall, the county is hiring around 100 new mental health professionals. The breakdown of that workforce is as follows:

  • 45 new Student Assistance Specialists, making it 81 total
  • 8 new ACCESS Liaisons
  • 40 new clinicians to work in mental health clinics

McMahon says this plan is starting to roll out now, but it will be fully implemented for when the kids get back to school in September.

Prior to this money, funding was distributed based on economic need. The pandemic has changed their perspective.

“We’ve gone where the needs have always been the greatest, socio-economically. But what we’re talking about today goes across all boundaries of the economic life,” McMahon said.

This comes at a time when mental health calls into the 911 center have increased by 15 percent. Students at C-NS agree, the time to do this is now.

“I have more than one close friend who like, recently, has just, therapy has just picked up. And I feel like they shouldn’t have to go to outside therapy,” said Samuel Nessel, a senior at C-NS.

Nessel has been going to school in person two days a week. When he and other children come back in April four days a week, the superintendent is expecting an increase in social-emotional needs.

“We’re only hitting the tip of the iceberg. As we get more students back into school more, we’re going to find out what’s happened over time,” said Daniel Bowles, Superintendent of the North Syracuse Central School District.

As this plan develops, C-NS does have a dozen counselors, school psychologists, and social workers to help with mental health needs.

Any C-NS student in crisis is encouraged to text “Got5” to 741-741 for help.

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