Attorney General holds hearing on mental health crisis in Western New York

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BUFFALO, N.Y. The attorney general held a public hearing in Western New York on the struggles families are facing when trying to get help for loved ones having a mental health crisis.

There were heart-wrenching stories about the red tape that families can get stuck in when trying to get much-needed services.

Many of the people who spoke at Wednesday’s hearing lost children, siblings and parents to suicide and outlined for the attorney general and a panel of other leaders what they had been through in the months and years before that trying to get those loved ones help here in New York.

We’ve reported on a shortage of providers and beds for inpatient mental health services in the past and the problem really hasn’t gotten much better.

Because of the immense tragedies that Western New Yorkers have faced over the past year, the attorney general held the public hearing in Buffalo today, but families from all across Upstate New York testified, including Brendan Hoare, who lost his sister Jennifer Hoare to suicide in November. He spoke about the yearslong struggle his family had trying to get her help.

“Overcrowded, chaotic, waiting rooms where people are left to wait for hours, and in some cases even days experiencing things that would further trigger and make their situation worse before they even get admitted if they were able to even get admitted in the first place,” Hoare said.

“We were told there was nothing they could do because they felt like she was doing this for attention,” Hoare said. “They also said that they couldn’t do anything, because Jenn’s actions may have been induced by alcohol and New York treats mental health and addiction as two separate entities, which is insane to me because it is so glaringly obvious that these two issues are deeply, deeply intertwined with one another.”

“The fact of the matter is how swiftly we act, determine how many lives are saved, and how long we continue to wait will determine how many lives are lost,” Hoare said.

The attorney general asked all of the panelists, specifically, what one thing in the process of trying to get help they would change, what would have made things easier to access the resources that may have kept their loved ones alive.

She says she’s going to use that information for legislative and enforcement solutions. Meanwhile, the governor announced last week a historic $1 billion mental health investment with a plan that includes 1,000 new psychiatric beds and 3,500 housing units supported by mental health services.