Friday, March 24, 2023

NYC coalitions and elected leaders show the “lights and shadows” of a new agenda to combat the mental health crisis.

Every time new policies emerge to address the mental health crisis in New York City, a new “storm” of questions and different positions emerges from elected organizations and community leaders.

With the announcement of a new $20 million investment to improve family and child mental health, address the overdose crisis and expand support for serious mental illness, some are already beginning to question the real effects of the new program.

And it happened that the Big Apple experienced a “once in a century pandemic”, recalling the death toll and the growing mental needs of young people. In New York City alone, more than 8,000 children have lost a parent to Covid-19. And according to national statistics, nearly one in three young people say they think they will die, an increase of more than 60 percent in recent decades.

The agenda announced this week by the city covers child and family mental health, but also includes those struggling with substance use problems and more serious conditions that need specialized support.

“This plan is the result of an intensive effort over the past year, involving government in every part of our city. From our health care experts to our first responders, we are looking for ways to keep people healthy in mind and body,” said Mayor Eric Adams.

Call for less police intervention

Coalitions such as Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) immediately questioned that the municipal government continues to announce plans for mental health, but at the same time proposes cutting the budget for the institutions that could make these programs a reality. But more money for the New York City Police (NYPD).

“Curtain-based mental health responses continue to be prioritized, as their goal is to expand programs that operate under the supervision and involvement of the NYPD. Rather, the police must completely remove themselves from all mental health responses and invest in non-police solutions to this crisis,” Ileana Méndez Peñate, spokeswoman for CPR .

This organization has its doubts, specifically, to strengthen the goal of the Division of Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response (B-HEARD) that is 80% operated by police officers throughout the city and support New Yorkers with serious mental illness (SMI).

virtues and vices

But the City Council was blowing second winds to evaluate the City’s new mental health plan.

“This plan is very welcome. We have been waiting for evidence-based solutions. Those who experience substance abuse problems require treatment, not years in courts and prisons. Instead of criminalization, we should invest in healthy programs, with a focus on racial equity,” Adrienne Adams, president of the City Council, said .

In addition, Ombudsman Jumaane Williams recommended more funding for mental health support clubs, such as spaces for New Yorkers suffering from serious mental illness.

However, this policy is criticized for having more support for the opening of new centers, which operate through a model designed to provide care for the type of current crisis without an institution.

“It is vital to support young people’s mental health, including through telehealth. We still have concerns about the institutions that are involved in identifying the need for services. It’s vitally important that we support families, instead of policing or sanctioning them,” said Williams.

Another “lifeline” is the homeless family

In parallel, this week the New York City Council approved a bill that would require the city to fund mental health professionals at all shelters for families with homeless children.

Bill 522 was introduced last year by Council member Erik Bottcher in partnership with Christine C. Quinn, President and CEO of Win, the largest provider of shelter and support services for refugee women and their children.

“Being homeless is traumatic in and of itself. Whether you’re evicted, fleeing domestic abuse, fleeing to the United States and seeking asylum, or applying for asylum in some other way. There’s trauma involved. We as a city need to get these families access to the mental health care they need,” Quinn explained. , President Win.

Bill 522 requires the City to establish mental health professionals in all urban family shelters, with the equivalent of one full-time mental health professional for every 50 families with children.

This will provide on-site mental health services to more than 13,000 families living in shelters across the five boroughs. Services would be available to family members that they chose to use and not required.

Proponents of these laws argue that the needs of the mentally ill make it more likely that the family will become homeless again after leaving the shelter.

Additionally, refugee mothers deal with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, mild depression, severe anxiety disorders, and psychiatric conditions, at twice the rate of the general population.

Despite this higher rate of mental health problems, homeless families face more barriers to receiving care than other New Yorkers.

“It’s a tremendous step to locate therapists who can provide family psychotherapy at home in shelters, improve access to care during a turbulent time, and move our homeless neighbors to greater stability,” said Matt Kudish, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness New York (NAMI-NYC). .

In a nutshell: The details of the new mental health policy

  • “Care, Community, Action” is the name of New York City’s new mental health plan, announced by Mayor Eric Adams.
  • $20 million will be invested in child and family mental health, addressing the dose crisis and helping New Yorkers with Serious Mental Illness (SMI).
  • In the coming months, the city will pioneer a telehealth program for New York high school-aged youth that will provide ongoing support and an entry point to higher levels of care.
  • The city will also launch a suicide prevention program targeting at-risk youth.
  • The city will double the number of connections to care for New Yorkers with serious mental illness.
  • The Division of Behavioral Health Emergency Response (B-HEARD) program is expanding. This proposal, along with $370 million in other investments in New York City, builds continuity of care and crisis response.
  • As overdose deaths continue to rise across the country and in the Big Apple, the mayor also announced the city’s goal of reducing deaths by more than 15 percent by 2025.
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