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COVID Impact: Advocates Say Pandemic Causing Rising Mental Health Issues, Suicide Rates And Exploding Opioid Crisis

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Families on Long Island on Thursday called for more funding to help the increasing number of people suffering from mental illness and substance disorders.

Experts say the coronavirus pandemic is putting so many more children and adults at risk, CBS2's Cindy Hsu reported.

Vincent D'Antoni was kind and funny but battled ADHD and anxiety. His mom says in high school he started smoking marijuana, which lead to oxycodone, heroin and deep depression.

He died of an overdose in 2017 at 25 years old.

"I wake up each morning and I think about those families and those moms that are going through such crisis and that they may eventually lose their child," mother Sharon Richmond said.

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Richmond shared her story in an effort to save others. She said Vincent didn't meet her insurance company's definition of "medical necessity," so he was denied treatment multiple times.

"If your child had brain cancer, you're going to be put into a system. You're going to see several doctors," Richmond said. "Things like those need to be done for patients that deal with mental health illnesses. What happens is they fall through the cracks."


Advocates say right now the pandemic is causing the triple threat of rising mental health issues, suicide rates and an exploding opioid crisis.

"You have people who never used drugs or alcohol before that all of a sudden are finding comfort in a drink or a drug, maybe to help them sleep or to help them deal with the fear and the anxiety," said Anthony Rizzuto of The Seafield Center. "Will I have a job? How am I going to support my family?"

They say this is the time we need more funding for mental health and addiction services.

"There will be a tsunami of need for services going forward. It won't be a month, it won't be six months. It will be for several years to come," Rizzuto said.

Advocates say the cost of prevention now will be much less than treatment later.

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