Upstate Medical is launching a new program to help people learn more about mental health, which has become an important subject during the pandemic.

Starting April 14, the Upstate Mental Health Initiative Reach will allow primary care providers to learn about mental health care in their offices.

“Primary care physicians are doing a lot of work regarding mental health care, and our role here is just to see how we can help to strengthen their capacities,” said Dr. Nevena Radonjic, a psychiatrist.

Primary care physicians (PCPs) are the first stop for most patients, and when it comes to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, they are the professionals patients seek help from first.

“Primary care providers treat a majority of mild-to-moderate mental health disorders,” Radonjic said.

The program will have three cycles with about 30 participants each. The goal is to reach providers across central New York. The first cycle has physicians from more than seven counties.

“They’re treating much more mental health than they’ve been trained for," Radonjic said. "This is where our initiative is coming from, to strengthen their capacities because they’re doing a lot of mental health treatment.”

The goal is to work with about 100 providers in all. They will be structured with workshops and opportunities for PCPs to bring in their own cases to ask questions about.

For the future, program leaders look to serve rural communities, where the need for care is even greater.

Spots are still open for the first cycle.