Over the past two years, New Yorkers have experienced uncertainty, disconnection, and at times real pain, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May 2020, the New York State Health Foundation found that 35% of New Yorkers reported anxiety and depression, double or triple the number reported before the pandemic. In February 2021, this figure rose to 40%, before dropping to 32% in May 2021. The World Health Organization reported a 25% increase in the global prevalence of anxiety and depression over the same period.

The epidemic has forced people to deal with mental illness in ways never before, including patients who face new challenges, and providers who often have to learn to provide care in new and creative ways. This was also true for government policy makers, who often came to take a more analytical and analytical approach to medical policy. Nowhere is this clearer than in this year’s legislation.

Although many people have experienced mental health problems during the epidemic, medical professionals have identified the needs of other groups as more difficult, including the elderly and children who are isolated, those who respond deeply, people who have been affected by prejudice and systemic inequality, and people who are experiencing it. the relationship between mental health and substance abuse.

The 2022-23 State Budget made it clear that policymakers in New York have been paying attention to the health care delivery challenges. Bills were passed that required commercial insurers to pay for outpatient services provided by a psychiatrist, make care and services provided by licensed mental health counselors and families eligible for treatment under the Medicaid program, and prohibit the use of failure-to-primary or primary treatment methods that able to diagnose and treat mental illness.

On June 22, State Attorney Letitia James launched a public hearing to review the availability of mental health services for New Yorkers with severe mental illness. Government representatives from across the region attended, identifying several barriers to access to healthcare, resulting from isolation and depression caused by the pandemic, as well as the reduction of psychological resources sent to the response to COVID-19. effort.

At the meeting of the attorney general, Sen. Gustavo Rivera, the chairman of the health committee, and others spoke clearly about how the epidemic has affected communities of color, and how it affects the elderly, children, and rural people whose access to health care is limited by geography and wealth as much as, or more than, than the poorest urban dwellers. Again, the Legislature responded, by passing legislation to establish a maternity health unit, and to establish a temporary agency to study aging in mental health facilities.

All of this suggests that officials are realizing the magnitude of New York’s mental health problem — and more importantly, they also seem to recognize that mental health issues don’t affect everyone equally.

But more can and should be done. It is important that future efforts be directed to groups that need help the most, such as children, the elderly, and communities of color.

For example, we are just beginning to understand how this epidemic affects children whose mental, emotional, and social development is taking place during this turbulent time. Early reports suggest that they will understandably be more affected than adults. Researchers have also shown that suicide rates are higher among children and adolescents, especially among black children and adolescents (with black girls seeing the greatest increase).

The financial transfer of public funds is essential to ensure that we understand – and can respond to – these consequences. This is important not only for public health; it’s also important to get our economy back on track, at a time when we need more people to get back to work.

The good news is that success is possible. Senior decision makers have already recognized the challenges that affect the health of New Yorkers – what is needed now is to identify solutions to these challenges, and to require politicians to provide the necessary resources to implement those solutions.

Mark Ustin is a health care management attorney and social worker in Albany, and a partner with Farrell Fritz, PC.

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