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Onondaga County Invests $5.5 million In Mental Health Resources For School Students

John Smith WAER News

Onondaga County is investing $5.5 million to address the growing need for mental health resources at schools. The county and its partners will hire dozens of professionals to help students who might be struggling with isolation, economic hardship, or other fallout from the pandemic. 


Cicero North Syracuse High School Senior Samuel Nessel says the help is needed.

“I have more than one close friend who’s therapy has picked up recently. I feel like they shouldn’t have to go to outside therapy.” said Nessel.

Nessel says he benefited from in-school assistance a few years ago when he struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder. County Executive Ryan McMahon says today’s students are among the thousands of “silent victims” of the pandemic. The county is partnering with Liberty resources, Arise, and Helio Health to provide 100 new clinicians.

“Every school in the county will have the opportunity to now have an onsite school-based clinic. We will provide start up funds for the clinicians to get going and develop these clinics.” said McMahon.

Credit John Smith WAER News
Cicero North Syracuse Student Samuel Nessel


McMahon says they’re starting to roll it out now as more students return to their schools, and hope to have the plan fully implemented by the start of the next school year.  He says they’re trying to push supports into every building.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of money your parents make, you make. It doesn’t matter if it’s an affluent district, a poor district. Mental health crosses all those boundaries.” said McMahon.

McMahon says it’s also important to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health, and told the CNS students that it’s okay to ask for help.  He says the same goes for the larger community: the county has seen 15% increase in 911 calls related to mental health, as well as a sharp rise in addiction issues and overdoses.  

Credit Onondaga County

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at