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EDITORIAL: Not exactly thriving: Chirlane McCray defends her mental health initiative at the City Council, but major questions remain

The New York Daily News - 3/27/2019

March 27-- Mar. 27--First Lady Chirlane McCray and others who run her $250 million-a-year ThriveNYC mental health initiative were answering a City Council committee's questions Tuesday. The gap between the program's promise and the services it delivers was as glaring as ever.

Councilman Danny Dromm asked how much of Thrive's budget goes toward addressing serious mental illness. McCray answered, "All of Thrive is really focused on the serious mentally ill," on the theory that if they go untreated, any and all forms of mental distress can metastasize into serious psychosis.

We don't make light of clinical depression and other problems -- they are painfully real and can, if left to fester, become debilitating -- but this is a disingenuous dodge. Such maladies do not naturally lead to the type of severe schizophrenia and other acute disorders that haunt the psyches of too many individuals who need and deserve a robust public health response.

These are the people whose presence and suffering and, occasionally, threat to others on the streets and subways often trigger calls to the police. Calls regarding emotionally disturbed persons have more than doubled from 2006 to last year.

Thrive officials were asked, and asked again, what percentage of Thrive's budget is focused on helping such men and women. When they stopped hedging and playing semantic games, they finally said that about $30 million of its $250 million budget is so focused.

We're all for combating the stigma associated with mental health challenges; no one who is wrestling with depression, bipolar disorder or other problems should fear getting help, whether that's talk therapy or medication, or find it out of reach.

But McCray's efforts, and our money, do relatively little for those in direst need. Correcting the imbalance begins with acknowledging it.


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