Brooklyn Boro

NYC’s mental health programs expanded by first lady

March 11, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Eight organizations in Brooklyn have received grants in a program spearheaded by First Lady Chirlane McCray to provide mental health care in existing neighborhood facilities. Shown: McCray joined parents in Manhattan on Thursday for a conversation about mental health.   Photo by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Red Hook, Sunset Park, Bed-Stuy to benefit

Fourteen community organizations – with eight serving Brooklyn – have received grants in an innovative program spearheaded by First Lady Chirlane McCray to provide mental health care in existing neighborhood facilities.

In Brooklyn, the Arab American Association of New York, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, CAMBA, CASES, Comunilife, Red Hook Initiative, Safe Horizon and The HOPE Program will partner with local mental health providers to improve care in communities including Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sunset Park and Red Hook.

As part of the Connections to Care program, social service staff at the organizations will receive basic training to support three main groups of people: expectant parents and parents of children up to the age of four; out of school and out of work young adults ages 16 to 24; and unemployed or underemployed adults.

Mental health is a priority of First Lady Chirlane McCray, chair of The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. The Mayor’s Fund selected the organizations to receive a total of $30 million in funding, in collaboration with the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity and the Health Department.

At Red Hook Initiative on Friday, McCray told reporters that a bedrock of the funding was a $10 million social-innovation grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

McCray said that for her, “the groundbreaking potential of Connections to Care can be summed up with one big number – 40,000. That is how many New Yorkers will receive mental health care over the next five years with this initiative. That means 40,000 New Yorkers who will be able to talk about their issues and challenges in a place they trust, with people they trust.”

“By partnering with local organizations that have strong community ties, we can ensure more New Yorkers can access these invaluable services,” Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez said in a release.

Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook) said that mental health counseling for young people ages 16 – 24 “is a need that we’ve waited over a decade to address and can now properly fund.”

In his district, the Red Hook Initiative will partner with Sunset Park-based NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers to provide counseling.

Councilmember Corey Johnson, chair of the Committee on Health, said that integrating mental health services into existing programs was a smart approach. “For too long, mental health care has been out of reach for many New Yorkers, particularly those who are low income,” he said.

Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook) called the integration approach “brilliant.”

Jill Eisenhard, founder and executive director of the Red Hook Initiative, said that over the 14 years that the organization has been serving youth and families in Red Hook, “there has always been an unmet need for high-quality, culturally competent mental health care.”

The majority of Red Hook Initiative’s staff are Red Hook residents, and they will be receiving the training, she said.

Over the next five years, mental health providers are expected to train nearly 1,000 staff members at the organizations.

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City is funded through donations from foundations, corporations and individuals. The Ford Foundation has committed $2 million to the Connections to Care program.

More details about the program may be found here.

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Updated at 4:45 p.m. with quotes from Chirlane McCray.