MHW: NYC First Lady’s Mental Health Reform Initiative A ‘Roadmap’ For Access, Services

NYAPRS Note: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray announced ‘ThriveNYC: A Mental Health Roadmap for All’ last November. The first lady’s plan – a $1 billion, multiyear effort toward a more effective and holistic system – outlines 54 targeted initiatives, 23 of them new, to support the mental well-being of New Yorkers.The initiatives are designed to ensure that New Yorkers receive treatment, including early intervention, community services, and support.

In addition to expanding the mental health workforce, one of the hallmarks of ThriveNYC is expanding access to services. Scheduled to launch this fall, New Yorkers will be provided with a 1-800 number to call and get support. They will also be able to text or find support via the Web. They’ll receive referrals and get help scheduling appointments with mental health professionals. Follow-up support will also be available.

McCray describes her passion for mental health as a “natural thing for [her] to focus on,” as both her parents and daughter have experienced mental health concerns. But according to NYAPRS’ own Harvey Rosenthal, the first lady’s program raises the focus of mental health to “unprecedented” levels. “Through this comprehensive set of initiatives, the first lady has demonstrated how well she has heard the voice and needs of our community,” Rosenthal said. “I’m particularly heartened by the number of strategies that reach out to individuals in the greatest need. These represent smart and strong system fixes that are in sharp contrast to system failures connected to the use of court-ordered treatment.”

 

NYC First Lady’s Mental Health Reform Initiative A ‘Roadmap’ For Access, Services

Mental Health Weekly January 25, 2016

 

Citing a goal to support the mental well-being of New Yorkers, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray have unveiled a groundbreaking initiative designed to ensure New Yorkers receive treatment, including early intervention, community services and support. The mental health reform effort could become a national model, say officials.

 

De Blasio and McCray announced ThriveNYC: A Mental Health Roadmap for All, a multiyear effort, on November 23. According to a report released to coincide with the announcement, major depressive disorder is the single greatest source of disability in New York City. At any given time, over a half million adult New Yorkers are estimated to have depression, yet less than 40 percent report receiving care for it.

 

The report also noted that there are $14 billion in estimated annual productivity losses in New York City tied to depression and substance misuse.

 

“This is a personal issue for me,” McCray told MHW in an exclusive interview last week. “My parents have suffered from depression and my daughter is struggling with depression, anxiety and substance use issues.” Mental illness is an issue so many are struggling with, she said.

 

McCray added, “This is such a natural thing for me to focus on. This is complex. There is no health without mental health.” McCray explained that children in schools, for example, with conduct disorder, are punished when often the root of the problem could be trauma, domestic problems or a mental illness that has not been properly diagnosed. Additionally, so few treatment options are available, she said.

 

“Why aren’t we doing something about this?” noted McCray. “It makes so much sense. So often we put a Band-Aid [on something] instead of getting to the root of what’s wrong.” This is a comprehensive plan, McCray said. The state is promoting this initiative as mental health reform that includes substance abuse as well, she said. “Every time I say mental illness I should also be saying substance abuse,” McCray said.

 

McCray began outreach efforts about 11 months ago, which included a number of feedback sessions in every borough. She has spoken with advocates, businesspeople, clergy, consumers and others, she noted. “It was important for people to have a chance to tell their story and about how they personally interacted with the system in New York,” she said.

 

Multiyear Effort

The estimated cost of Thrive- NYC is $1 billion, said McCray, adding that the program will be fully implemented over the next four years. The first lady’s plan toward a more effective and holistic system outlines 54 targeted initiatives, 23 of them new, to support the mental well-being of New Yorkers.

 

Some of the initiatives are currently up and running, says McCray, including Mental Health First Aid. “Our goal is to train one-quarter of a million New Yorkers in Mental Health First Aid in order for them to reach out to family, friends and coworkers suffering from symptoms of depression. It’s kind of like CPR but only for the mind,” she said.

 

When people get trained, it will transform the way people look at mental illness, she said. “I took the class one year ago and found it very transformative,” said McCray. You’re kind of learning to discern what steps to take to save a life.”

 

“This initiative is so important to me and my city. We have all these different communities, culture and language,” McCray said. “The most important thing [for people] suffering with mental illness is to have someone they trust to talk to.”

 

Mental health has such stigma attached to it, “especially in our ethnic communities,” McCray added. “We need trusted leaders, including faith-based leaders.” It’s important that members of the community get behind Mental Health First Aid, Mc- Cray said.

 

Accessing Needed Services

Another plan the city has in store is helping people access services whenever needed. “People are often complaining about how difficult it is to find help,” said McCray. “When [my daughter] became ill, I did not know who to call” other than her pediatrician, she said.

 

This effort, scheduled to launch this fall, will provide New Yorkers with a 1-800 number to call and get support. They will also be able to text or find support via the Web. They’ll receive referrals and get help scheduling appointments with mental health professionals. Follow-up support will also be available, said McCray.

 

“This is what we call one handoff, to actually get people to their appointment and get the right care,” said McCray. This service will be available 24 hours, seven days a week. “I do not know anyone else who has done that before,” she said. “We want New York to be a place where people can live their lives to the fullest.”

 

Program Components

ThriveNYC efforts will also include a citywide public awareness campaign with the aim to reshape the conversation around mental health, promoting mental wellness and early intervention and educating New Yorkers about how to get services.

 

Through another effort, the NYC Mental Health Corps, the city will hire 400 clinicians and recently graduated master’s- and doctoral-level clinicians to work in mental health clinics, substance abuse programs and primary care practices in high-need communities throughout the city. When fully staffed, this corps can provide 400,000 additional hours of service, said officials.

 

Building on the expansion of mental health services in community schools, the city will hire 100 school mental health consultants who will work with every school citywide to ensure that staff and administrators have an outlet to connect students with immediate needs to care.

 

McCray plans to quickly move forward to hire mental health professionals to serve as consultants in the city’s schools and help young students with social and emotional skills. “That’s starting immediately with every school citywide. The consultants will be charged with evaluating and assessing the needs of every school in the city,” she said.

 

“You have to make change from the ground up,” McCray said. “We’re very focused on this being a success and we hope to inspire and influence other cities in terms of their approach [to reform]. This is going to be a continuing conversation.”

 

ThriveNYC Support

Leaders and advocates are applauding the first lady’s mental health reform initiative. The first lady’s comprehensive program raises the focus on mental health and related systems to a level that is “unprecedented,” Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, told MHW. “I’ve never seen anything like it in 25 years of being an advocate.”

 

“Through this comprehensive set of initiatives, the first lady has demonstrated how well she has heard the voice and needs of our community,” Rosenthal said. “I’m particularly heartened by the number of strategies that reach out to individuals in the greatest need. These represent smart and strong system fixes that are in sharp contrast to system failures connected to the use of court-ordered treatment.”

 

Rosenthal added, “In just the last year or two, the first lady’s leadership has been extraordinary. She has focused city government, the media and the broad stakeholder community on the need for mental health reform. She and her family have courageously taken on stigma by sharing freely about their own family experiences.”

 

Jeffrey Lieberman, professor and chair of psychiatry at Columbia University and the New York Presbyterian Hospital, said in a statement that the release of the mental health roadmap by the de Blasio administration and spearheaded by McCray “marks a historic, and potentially seminal, milestone.”

 

The roadmap represents “the first initiative by a government administration and First Lady on mental health care since Rosalynn Carter chaired the President’s Commission on Mental Health in 1978,” Lieberman said. “If successful, this effort could result in the improvement of the lives of many people and immensely benefit the city of New York as well as serve as a model to other parts of the country.”

 

For more information about ThriveNYC, visit https://thrivenyc.cityofnewyork.us