Mayor de Blasio, First Lady McCray Take on Mental Health in NYC

ThriveNYC: A Mental Health Roadmap for All

In January 2015, New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray announced the city’s commitment to cre- ating a mental health system that would work for all New Yorkers.

After much study, and collaboration with experts, providers and communities, on November 23, 2015, she and Mayor Bill de Blasio released ThriveNYC: A Mental Health Roadmap for All, a plan of action to guide the city toward a more effective and holistic system. The plan outlines 54 initiatives, 23 of them new, to support the mental well-being of New York- ers. Additionally, ThriveNYC creates a model that can be applied nationally and a framework for advocacy.

“We want New York City to be a place where peo- ple can live their lives to the fullest,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “ThriveNYC is about more services, better services, and easier access to services. It’s a plan of action that shows us how to treat mental ill- ness – and also promote mental health.” McCray was spokesperson for Maimonides Medical Center before her husband became mayor and has been actively promoting mental health awareness. The De Blasios have been open about their family’s mental health issues. She has spoken about her parents’ depression and their own daughter’s past substance abuse.

ThriveNYC is a bold response to the challeng- ing reality that one in five adult New Yorkers face a mental health disorder each year. Eight percent of high school students in New York City report at- tempting suicide, and more than one in four report

feeling persistently sad or hopeless. Deaths because of unintentional drug overdose now outnumber both homicide and motor vehicle fatalities.

Many New Yorkers are suffering, even though mental health problems are treatable. In addition to the human toll, failure to adequately address mental illness and substance misuse costs New York City’s economy an estimated $14 billion annually in pro- ductivity losses.

ThriveNYC sets forth a plan to make sure that New Yorkers can get the treatment that they need – and lays out an approach that will improve the mental wellbeing of all New Yorkers. The plan sets forth six principles for achieving long-term change:

• Change the culture by making mental health everybody’s business and having an open conversation about mental health.
• Act early to prevent, intervene more quickly, and give New Yorkers more tools to weather challenges.

• Close treatment gaps by providing equal access to care for New Yorkers in every neighborhood.
• Partner with communities to embrace their wisdom and strength and to collab- orate for culturally competent solutions.

• Use data better to address gaps and improve programs.
• Strengthen government’s ability to lead by coordinating an unprecedented effort to support the mental health of all
New Yorkers. 

Taken together, these principles outline a public health approach to mental wellness that charts a path toward a healthier and happier future for all New Yorkers. ThriveNYC focuses on promoting men- tal health, preventing illness, and detecting prob- lems early, in addition to treating mental illness.

Similar approaches have dramatically improved public health issues. For example, through a com- bination of policy bans on smoking, broad public communications, increased federal, state and local excise taxes and increased access to treatment tools, New York City cut the adult smoking rate by 35 percent in about a decade. The youth rate fell even more – by 52 percent.

“If you look at how mental illness has been addressed over the years, you see a lot of broken promises,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “You don’t see a concerted, holistic effort to help people be well and stay well. The people of NYC needed something different, something like ThriveNYC. It will take years to address the problem the way it should be addressed. But we need to start now, we need to start aggressively. The people of NYC deserve nothing less.” —Compiled by TPC Staff