May is for Mental Health: Helio Health expanding its services with $4M grant

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health is as important as ever with many Americans quarantined in their homes.

“There’s never a wrong time to talk about mental health.” Jeremy Klemanski, president and CEO of Helio Health, said. 

And now might be a better time than ever to address your mental health because May is mental health awareness month.

“It’s always a good time to talk about our mental health, May we just try to call extra attention to it,” Klemanski said.

With the coronavirus pandemic affecting almost every part of life, people’s mental health may be deteriorating more than ever.

“People have lost their jobs, some people have lost a loved one, some people are afraid of becoming ill, or their children becoming ill,” Klemanski said. “Those types of life traumas last, and they’re with us and they affect us, and they affect our mental health.”

Klemanski says Helio Health has seen an uptick in calls during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he’s proud that these people are coming forward because the stigma that surrounds mental health can often keep people from seeking help.

“I think we’re making progress because we are seeing more people reach out for help, and because we see other parts of our healthcare ecosystem screen people for mental health,” Klemanski said.

Many times the stigma around mental health causes people to suffer in silence with their mental illness. 

To further mental health services in Central New York, Helio Health was recently awarded $4 million to be paid over the next two years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. So far, Helio Health’s services have helped reduce hospitalizations, substance abuse and suicides.

Klemanski said, “So, the federal government is saying, ‘Let’s see, if we can help people be healthier, and it can save us money in Medicaid, Medicare and other places if it can reduce incarceration, reduce hospitalization, let’s invest in this.’ We’ve been very fortunate to receive one of those expansion grants.”

The $4 million grant will allow Helio Health to hire 23 more employees to do the following:

  • Increase access to on-demand care, mobile services, and MAT for individuals in mental health crisis or with a substance use disorder.
  • Improve the well-being of members of the armed forces, veterans and their families by providing evidence-based programs and services tailored to their needs.
  • Increase screening for people with chronic health conditions and provide or refer them for treatment in order to improve health outcomes. 
  • improve the well-being and functioning of adults with severe mental health or co-occurring illnesses by addressing social barriers and increasing autonomy.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Helio Health has adjusted their services in order to ensure they adequately serve the Central New York community via telehealth.

Klemanski said, “It’s as effective for some people for some disorders. For other people, it’s not as effective, but it’s better than them having to risk exposure to COVID-19.”

Patients who are at higher risk can still meet with their physician in person at Helio Health, but extra measures are being taken to ensure COVID-19 does not spread.

If you’re unsure about seeking mental health services, remember your brain is the most important part of your body.

“Our mental health affects our ability to take care of the rest of our body,” Klemanski said. “It affects our ability to eat healthily, it affects our ability to express ourselves, it affects our ability to communicate with our loved ones, our co-workers, our employer.” 

If you’ve never thought about your mental health, take the month of May to really evaluate yourself and check on the others around you.

“There’s never a wrong time to talk about mental health,” Klemanski said. “I want to say to anybody who’s ever wondering, ‘Should I bring it up? I don’t want to offend somebody.’ I’d rather offend somebody and them know that I care about them than hear from family and friends down the road that they committed suicide, or something else negative happened to them.”

For more information on Helio Health, click here.

If you’re interested in the mental health services available in your community, call 2-1-1.

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