Gunther introduces COVID-19 mental health legislation

ALBANY – Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D, Forestburgh) has introduced legislation creating a statewide advisory council in the Office of Mental Health to issue recommendations surrounding mental health care for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our essential workers have been putting their lives on the line to take care of us during this pandemic,” Gunther, a registered nurse, said. “We’re going to be seeing higher rates of PTSD, anxiety, and depression, and we need to make sure they have the proper supports and services available to them.”

She worked on the legislation with the Mental Health Association in New York and its CEO, Glenn Liebman, said, “We are in an environment that is unprecedented in the traumatic impact to our workforce. Our brave frontline workers have been under siege from COVID-19.”

As the state gradually reopens, Gunther and Liebman said there needs to be a concerted effort to ensure that essential workers do not get left behind. They said a survey of physicians and nurses in China in the height of the pandemic showed that approximately 50 percent of respondents reported symptoms of depression, 44 percent reported symptoms of anxiety, and 34 percent reported insomnia.

“This advisory council is constructed so that people who are on the ground in the trenches would have the most representation,” Gunther said. “Their input in this recovery is so important.”

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