Sunset Park

NYU Lutheran experts applaud mayor’s mental health stance

May 18, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Tomas Cruz, vice president of NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers, says a school-based program NYU Lutheran runs has resulted in improved student attendance. Photo courtesy NYU Lutheran

Mayor Bill de Blasio is on target when he speaks about the city’s need to expand mental health services according to officials at Brooklyn’s NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers, who said that the mental health of children and families demands more attention from city government.

“We strongly support Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build a more effective and inclusive mental health system because we know that often the people who could most benefit from mental health services, such as homeless youth and survivors of domestic violence, are the least likely to access those services,” said Larry K. McReynolds, president of the NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers.

NYU Lutheran operates a network of 28 school-based health centers throughout Brooklyn. Fourteen of the centers provide mental health services. All of the centers are affiliated with NYU Lutheran, the hospital at 150 55th St. in Sunset Park.

Last week, de Blasio announced that his executive budget for fiscal year 2016 would contain $54.4 million for mental health services across the city. An additional $73.8 million will be proposed for the Fiscal Year 2017 budget. “For this year’s immediate efforts, we will have mental health clinics in our renewal schools and in our community schools. We are going to have substance abuse prevention specialist in all the renewal schools; mental health services in all of our family shelters; and, of course, mental health services added at Rikers Island,” de Blasio said in his announcement.

Renewal schools are schools that are struggling and have been targeted for extra resources from the city.

The mayor called mental health “an open secret that has to be addressed.”

May is National Mental Health Month.

“It’s good to see the city paying attention to issues that the community has grappled with for so long,” McReynolds said.

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Experts at NYU Lutheran said they have had mental health programs in place for several years and can account for their success.

“Our school-based health center program results in improved student attendance and grades and fewer problems with issues like bullying,” said Tomas Cruz, PhD, NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers’ vice president for ambulatory behavioral health. “Our program has built a strong reputation among community and school leadership because we can demonstrate positive benefits for the students we serve and for the whole school community.”

The program at NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers includes integrating social-emotional learning into its early childhood centers, providing youth counselors at its Project Reach Youth Center, and offering a variety of supportive services for immigrant families at its Family Support Center, officials said.

Sunset Terrace, one of the centers NYU Lutheran operates, offers outpatient behavioral health services. Another program, Healthy Connections, provides counseling to children, adolescents and adults who have been affected by trauma.

In addition, the NYU Lutheran Medical Center Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Sciences provides a variety of behavioral health and substance-abuse services, including psychiatric consultation, referrals to long-term or residential care, emergency services and a 35-bed, acute care psychiatric unit. A psychiatrist and registered nurse are available 24 hours a day for emergency evaluation and care.

In his announcement, de Blasio credited his wife, Chirlane McCray, with raising the consciousness of New Yorkers on the issue of mental health. The City’s First Lady has made mental health a cornerstone of her public life.

McCray stated that the funding proposed by her husband “will reach a lot of people and will do a lot of good.”

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