ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The Office of Mental Health announced funding for suicide prevention programs in minority communities. Five $1,000,000 rewards will be distributed to those who need it most.

Since the pandemic, anxiety and stress have been at the forefront of mental health issues, that’s according to Matthew Canuteson, the Chief Diversity Officer at the Office of Mental Health, “We thought that it would be very important to have, you know, unique services available, specifically for populations that we traditionally struggle with,” he said.

Those struggling communities include New York youth, Asian Americans, black New Yorkers, Latinos. LGBTQ+ and Native American Indian New Yorkers. 

Canuteson says one thing that makes this funding special, is that applicants do not need to be licensed or funded by the state’s office of mental health. They’re looking for grass root community agencies that will be highly involved in at-risk communities. So what exactly will this funding go towards? 

“Some of this services are individual group counseling, family education and counseling, community engagement, wellness activities and then the organizations are also going to be partnered with a licensed behavioral health provider,” said Canuteson.

The state also announced a new Suicide Prevention Hotline which can be reached via text or call at any time. That number is 988. Canuteson says this, is a game changer, “It really is giving a number that everybody will be able to call for mental health support. Especially communities of color traditionally having to call 911 its been something that’s a little bit harder for us, for obvious reasons, historically because of racism and things like that.”

The office will also be collecting demographic information on those who use the 988 hotline to better understand who is or is not utilizing it.