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Long Island

Long Island gets $3.3M from state for mental health programs

Nassau and Suffolk counties have received a total of $3.3 million in state funding to launch new mental health programs and expand existing programs on Long Island.

Officials from the state Office of Mental Health announced Tuesday that Nassau will receive $1.15 million and Suffolk will get $2.15 million under the 2014-2015 state budget that passed the legislature in March.

In Nassau, the funding will add 16 more mental-health professionals to the county's Assertive Community Treatment program, which provides at-home mental health care. The additional workers will allow the county to treat 168 new patients, state officials said.

Officials will direct Suffolk's funding to five projects, including the development of a Recovery Center that will connect mental health patients living on the East End with social service programs.

"These programs will allow individuals with mental illness and their families to find high quality and accessible mental health services within their local communities," said New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie T. Sullivan.

State officials said the projects were selected after several meetings between state and county mental health officials and input from various local mental health groups.

"I see this as a start," said Ellen Healion, executive director of the Central Islip-based nonprofit Hands Across Long Island, which provides mental health services to some 3,500 clients annually.

"It's crucial that we fill these gaps in the mental health system," said Healion, who served on the advisory panel that made recommendations to the state. "That's what we're trying to do here -- keep people functional in the community."

In Suffolk, part of the money will be used to fund mental health treatment for 90 children, state officials said. The county also has plans to open a Hospital Alternative Respite Center that will provide treatment for those who require psychiatic assistance outside a hospital setting.

Art Flescher, director of community services for Suffolk's Department of Health, said the county is still determining locations for the centers, which they expect to open by early next year.

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