Schumer pushes for $5B in federal funds be immediately released to increase mental health access

Senator Chuck Schumer is demanding the release of federal funds to aid in mental health treatment.
Photo by Dean Moses

Senator Chuck Schumer is attempting to tear down the stigma around mental illness by demanding the release of federal funds.     

The dark clouds of depression, anxiety, and loneliness have been silently looming over New York City since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Subsequently, three times more people are suffering from mental illness since the virus’ onset with little to no access to resources. Senator Chuck Schumer is breaking the silence on the social stigmas behind these ailments and is pushing for the federal funding that has already been secured within the American Rescue Plan to be prioritized toward mental health efforts.

“It’s always been something that people don’t like to talk about, and now in our society it’s getting more realized. Mental illness is no different than a physical illness and there are ways to treat it,” Senator Schumer said at a press conference in the lobby of 875 Third Avenue on Sunday.

COVID-19 wrought destruction within almost every facet of life. On top of so many people losing their jobs, businesses, and financial security, along with facing a deadly disease that has killed about 40,000 in New York alone, individuals were forced to quarantine in place for months, isolated from loved ones and forgoing socialization.  Fear and seclusion fed the beast of anxiety and depression, and for those who want help, there is a long line to wait in the back of before they have access to services.

“It’s obvious that COVID would cause an increase in the need for mental health services. The isolation people feel, being apart from their work, and then so many people are familiar with illness in friends and family and deaths in friends and family. There is a dramatic upsurge in the need for mental health services. We urge people to get them,” the Senate Majority Leader said.

Time is of the essence, Senator Chuck Schumer stressed. Every minute someone faces depression and anxiety could lead to an episode that may send an individual spiraling down a dark hole of addiction and suicidal thoughts. Schumer shared that studies have found four in ten adults are reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression. Additionally, about one in three people were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder six months after recovering from COVID-19.

Schumer says mental health is as important as physical health. Photo by Dean Moses

“We must step in to help average folks, and mental health services is one of them. It hasn’t got as much attention as other parts of the bill but the reason we are here today is to give it that attention. People in isolation are suffering. They are suffering and they can get some real help,” Schumer said firmly.  

Survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and an onslaught of ailments have pervaded through New York City since the war path of the coronavirus. Schumer is pushing for the speedy release of the $5 billion that has already been secured within the American Rescue Plan to increase the availability of mental health services.  He explained that the only way to heal New Yorkers and beat these dark thoughts is to have access to swift care. The money will allow those who do not have access to health insurance due to loss of job or pandemic related financial hardship to seek help from a mental health professional.

“With this $5 billion there is going to be a great increase in services available. Now you call up and there is a long waiting list at many places, and then a lot of people don’t even bother to call,” Schumer said.

Dr. Aspasia Hotzoglou also joined in the discussion on improving access to mental health care, a psychologist at the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, who explained the surge of patients reporting signs of depression and anxiety over the past year.

“Social distancing has unfortunately meant social isolation for many New Yorkers. As a field we are seeing surges in patients with anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Some COVID-19 survivors are experiencing psychiatric symptoms for the first time in months into their recovery, and nationally there has been a significant increase in substance use and overdose deaths. This is not a surprise. COVID-19 has disrupted every facet of life and people are struggling,” Dr. Hotzoglou said.

Dr. Aspasia Hotzoglou also Joined in the discussion. Photo by Dean Moses

Senator Schumer and Dr. Hotzoglou both underscored the importance of those who are suffering from these ailments to seek immediate help and to not just cast these thoughts aside.  Mental illness is not something you can simply get over, and just like a physical injury, it must be treated by a professional.

“Our minds deserve the same attention and care as the rest of our bodies even if others can’t see that pain on an X-ray,” Dr. Hotzoglou said, adding, “The faster these funds are released, the sooner these induvial can get the help they need and start to get better.”

More from around NYC