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McMahon continues "unwavering commitment" to community's health

person writing message with chalk on sidewalk.jpg
Megan Zerez
A student at Vestal High School chalks an inspirational message on the sidewalk outside the school as part of a mental health activity.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon says his office continues what he calls an unwavering commitment to the health of the community, especially mental health.  He highlighted progress and some new initiatives at his state of the county address Thursday evening. 

McMahon told the crowd gathered at East Syracuse-Minoa high school that the $20 million the county has poured into school-based mental health services is paying off in terms of lives saved. School district officials from across the county attested to that in a produced video highlighting the success of the programs and interventions. McMahon says a $3.75 million federal grant will further bolster those efforts, as well as a new suicide prevention training program for all school personnel in the next school year.

“This will be very holistic as it will be intended for all school personnel who come in contact with our children from the teacher to administrators to the bus driver and custodial staff," McMahon said. "No one knows who might be the pivotal contact the child has that could prevent tragedy, so we all need to know the signs when someone is struggling.”

The training will be sponsored by businessman Vinny Lobdell, whose brother Rusty committed suicide at age 19. (Anyone needing immediate help can call or text the suicide and crisis lifeline 988.)

Often tied to mental health challenges is opioid addiction. McMahon is now seeking proposals for the second round settlement funds, which totals $2.5 million. This time, the focus will be on housing.

“The lack of stable housing is often the biggest barrier preventing a successful recovery for those battling addiction," McMahon said. "This round of funding will be dedicated towards knocking down that barrier. We will also focus on supports for those experiencing mental health and substance use disorder.”

On other public health-related matters, McMahon says the county will continue its efforts to immunize school children by offering mobile vaccinations to assist working parents. And, he says, the county maintains its commitment to removing lead paint from homes, including in the city of Syracuse.

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