Chirlane McCray’s mental health initiative is on track to spend $1 billion over five years — but city officials can’t provide a detailed breakdown or prove it’s making a positive difference, it was disclosed Wednesday.
The revelations came at a City Council hearing where legislators panned the first lady’s “Thrive” initiative for its slow response time and failure to treat the city’s mentally ill homeless.
I like the fact that money is going toward mental health, but when they say we’re seeing a benefit in all areas, I take exception to that, because I don’t see it everywhere,” Queens Councilman Robert Holden told The Post. “I’m not sure anybody does.”
Under pressure from Holden and fellow members of the council’s mental health committee, Thrive director Susan Herman admitted that the program — budgeted for a total $850 million between fiscal years 2016 and 2019 — will now cost $1 billion every four years.
She said Thrive would receive $250 million a year going forward, including $2 million to cover its 21 office staffers.
Since its inception in 2015, ThriveNYC — the city's sprawling $850 million initiative to address a variety of mental health issues — has operated without much scrutiny or accountability.
With few public metrics by which to measure its success so far, and the broad strokes used by city officials to describe its operations, the city has offered little insight into how it has assessed Thrive's efficacy since it began.
And because Thrive encompasses a variety of initiatives — some new, some already in existence — across more than a dozen agencies, it is difficult to establish a central, line-item budget delineating how the city is spending taxpayer dollars on the program.
Representatives from four advocacy and service organizations said that Thrive does not fund greater access to inpatient treatment or intensive outpatient services for those with serious mental illnesses, further burdening the social safety net.
“Thrive NYC is really best understood as a ‘tale of two cities’ initiative,” said Stephen Eide, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and an expert on homelessness and urban policy. “It’s about trying to give people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged access to the same kind of mental health care that people in upper middle income or affluent communities have enjoyed as a matter of course for a very long time.”
But that kind of programming won’t address institutional problems like homelessness and serious mental illness, which are financial and safety burdens to the city, he said.
f we’re not addressing those two problems, then whatever we are doing is lacking,” Eide said.
McCray acknowledged in October 2018 that the city does not often discuss Thrive’s programming for violent individuals due to stigma.
“It promotes that misconception that too many people have, that people who have mental illness or people suffering from substance use disorders are violent, which is not true,” she said at a health care conference.
The Post also has a biting editorial on Chirlie and Butthead and used my own description of her anointed position in city hall to excoriate her profligate spending.