Eye on WNY: Erie County's Free Mental Health App Makes Finding Resources Easier

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Published January 24, 2024


The number of Americans living with mental health challenges continues to rise. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, tens of millions of people are affected each year. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of children and teenagers living with depression and anxiety has increased over time. Therefore, making mental health resources more accessible and easy to use is essential, especially for parents.

In Erie County, a free digital resource has been designed to connect parents and caregivers with mental health and behavioral resources for school-age children and families. Erie Path is available as a smartphone app for iPhone and Android, as well as a website. It lists nearly 700 programs and more than 1,000 resources covering a wide range of mental health and behavioral conditions.

“This app takes some of the stress and confusion out of finding those services and puts information about hundreds of programs at the fingertips of a parent or caregiver,” stated Erie County Commissioner of Mental Health Mark O’Brien in a county press release. Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said in the same press release that he believes the app “will give families the tools and supports they need to help themselves and the children they love to grow and flourish.”

Listings include clinical treatment centers, substance use disorder counseling, community activities, first aid programs, housing information, food pantries, and social services. Parents and caregivers can search by program or agency name, by keyword, or by using guided search options. Content can be viewed in multiple languages.

Patricia Logan-Greene, PhD, MSSW, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, is a 2023 UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Pilot Studies Principal Investigator whose research examines the effects of childhood maltreatment on aggression, delinquency, and health and mental health outcomes throughout the lifespan. She believes easily accessible mental health resources are essential, especially for teens and children.

“Teens spend much of their lives on apps, for better or for worse, so using a tool like this may help reach some teens in a format in which they are comfortable,” Logan-Greene explains. 

She adds that the availability of resources may also break down some of the stigmas around reaching out for mental health help.

“There is still a huge stigma around help-seeking for mental health concerns, especially among some minoritized communities,” Logan-Greene states. “They also may not have equitable access to therapy because of [insurance plans that do not adequately cover mental health]. In addition, they need clinicians who are aware of their community and cultural contexts.”

Western New York’s long winters can be especially difficult for those facing mental health challenges.

“In an area like Buffalo, the impacts of cold and dreary winters may be felt by many,” Logan-Greene says. “Even recognizing that their mood might be affected by the weather can help people feel better.”

Taking advantage of available resources, like the Erie Path app, is key. Logan-Greene says 211-WNY “is always a great option for people who need help accessing resources.” She also highlights the new mental health and suicide hotline, which can be reached by calling 988.

For more information on the Erie County Department of Mental Health, visit erie.gov/mentalhealth. Check out the county’s Live Well Erie website at erie.gov/livewellerie