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Advocates Praise Expansion of State Program to Diagnose, Treat Schizophrenia

Messages cover the windows of a schizophrenic patientís house. Credit: Pete S/ Wikimedia Commons.
Messages cover the windows of a schizophrenic patientís house. Credit: Pete S/ Wikimedia Commons.
August 26, 2015

NEW YORK - New York state is expanding its services for young people who begin experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia affects about one out of every 200 people, and the first signs often appear from ages 18 and 21.

Glenn Liebman, chief executive of the Mental Health Association of New York State, said intervention as soon as the first episode occurs can be critical.

"Their chance of recovery and moving forward in their life is so much higher than if people keep getting more and more episodes of schizophrenia," he said.

Almost 3,000 New Yorkers develop schizophrenia every year. The $6.75 million expansion of OnTrackNY will allow the program to open new locations in Buffalo, Long Island, New York City and Syracuse.

Too often, Liebman said, people with schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness go a decade or more before getting the help they need. However, he said, early diagnosis and treatment can help them lead productive lives, often avoiding hospitalizations and other extreme interventions that disrupt lives and drain public resources.

"That's why we think early intervention for a psychosis like this, prevention, are really invaluable for people, for the community," he said. "It's a win/win for everybody."

The New York State Office of Mental Health said it plans to open even more sites for the OnTrackNY program in Albany, Rochester and New York City by the end of the year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY