Lawmakers from eastern Long Island have secured $175,000 in the state budget to continue addressing a gap in mental health services on the East End, officials said Tuesday.
The funding will build on efforts that began last year to address a "growing mental health and suicide crisis facing school-aged children" in eastern Suffolk County, said a news release from state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor).
East End officials said last year that the 2012 suicide of David Hernandez Barros, a 16-year-old East Hampton High School student, exposed a lack of psychiatric services on the South Fork, where some residents have to travel 60 miles to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of psychiatric emergencies.
"Given the wealth of other matters and issues affecting our state, it is unbelievable that our little corner of the state can receive funding, two years in a row," East Hampton High School Principal Adam Fine said in the release. "When government works like this, we can save lives."
LaValle and Thiele secured $150,000 in last year's state budget to begin hiring mental health professionals who are based on the East End. The funding expanded to $270,000 by the end of 2014 after contributions by Suffolk County, towns, schools, nonprofits and other entities, the lawmakers said.
The latest round of funding will continue expanding "crisis services and clinical staff availability" on the East End, officials said.
"The amount of progress our community has made in addressing this crisis over the last year is incredibly inspirational," Thiele said in the release. LaValle called the effort "vitally important."