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Transcript: Mayor Eric Adams Announces $1 Million Anonymous Donation to Launch Student Loan Forgiveness Program for Behavioral Health Professionals

July 24, 2022

Georges Leconte, CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem: Good afternoon. Hello and welcome to Harlem Hospital. My name is Georges Leconte. I'm the CEO of Harlem Hospital. I'm proud to welcome all of you, Mayor Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you.

Leconte: All right. Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, and the president of health and hospitals, Dr. Katz. Welcome to Harlem Hospital. Harlem's the largest hospital in central Harlem, and we've been serving the community since 1987. This wonderful Mural Pavilion that you're in opened up in 2012 and has continued to serve thus very graciously. Without further ado, I'd like to introduce our MC for the day, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. Thank you.

Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, Health and Human Services: Good morning everyone. How are you?

Leconte: Good morning.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Thank you so much, Georges. I'm upbeat, because it is Sunday in Harlem, and so that means that the churches are packed. I just had a really good service. Someone said to me, you have on your Sunday best. Yes, I do. And we are happy to be here. And actually, yes, good morning.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Actually, this morning's sermon was about not just talking and the words that we say, but the actions that we have to do, how we live our faith in our actions. Today's announcement is about an angel that lives amongst us and something that someone did for someone else. So it is my pleasure to, I was going to say, we don't really get rest on Sunday, if you work for Mayor Adams. It's more like an active rest. But I would still like to introduce my boss, the mayor of New York City, Mayor Eric Adams.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

Mayor Adams: I love that, because crises are not resting in our city. It seems as though people say that your honeymoon period is over. There was never a wedding. We have been going at it since the day we took office, with an amazing team, doing some amazing things. And one of the crises we are facing, and it's a real crisis, is the mental health crisis. It was a problem prior to the pandemic, and it has just continued to be aggravated post-pandemic. And so I want to thank the deputy mayor who has taken upon this awesome responsibility of navigating the team that was put together to deal with COVID, mental health illnesses, and those preexisting healthcare crises that we were facing. The presence of COVID did not mean the absence of some of the crises that we were facing. And so we also want to thank our electeds that are here, real forward-thinking elected officials who have been in this line of work, particularly Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse, who was a former nurse, and just continued to lean into these healthcare issues that we are facing.

Mayor Adams: And Senator Cordell Cleare, who represents the village of Harlem, and Harlem born through and through. Every New Yorker deserves a healthy and productive life, and that's what this announcement is about. Free from anxiety, free from depression, alcohol abuse, and substance issues, and more. And we're just seeing an increase of this as we move around our city. But two years of global pandemic have created a behavioral health and substance use crises in our city. And it's reflected the last time I was here in this space, two officers, Officer Rivera and Mora, who were assassinated, clearly the person involved had some form of mental health issue. Those stairs were lined with police officers who felt the impact of the loss. And outside to the left, we saw countless number of people from Harlem that was just looking in to see that devastating impact. And the effects of the mental health crises we're facing is disproportionately among Black and brown communities. But as we're saying over and over again, superheroes are not only wearing capes. They are wearing white coats.

Mayor Adams: There are nurses and doctors. There are mental health professionals that are the superheroes of our time. They're the psychologists and licensed social workers, and they are helping people with troubled lives. And we sometimes forget that because you become a professional, it does not mean that you don't have personal crises as well, of the impact of COVID, visiting the hospital, seeing some of the nurses and doctors and psychiatrists who were dealing with their own crises at home, losing loved ones. The infection of COVID did not skip over you because of your profession.

Mayor Adams: Many of them lost loved ones. They lost family members, while they were in the hospital, they were concerned about at home, and they were concerned about infecting their family members. And that's why we're pleased to announce today, New York City Health and Hospital new behavioral health loan forgiveness program, funded by a $1 million grant from a generous and anonymous donor. It offers $30,000 to $50,000 to student loan forgiveness to mental health professionals committed to serve in the New York City public health system. And we just want to thank that donor. All New Yorkers thank that donor.

Mayor Adams: And it's a seed amount. We're calling on all New Yorkers who, at 7:00 PM every night during COVID, were giving handshakes and giving claps to the success of our healthcare professionals. We're calling on them now to go to the website and donate. We should continue to feed this donation for our mental health professionals. Every New Yorker deserves the right to receive behavioral healthcare for the serious mental health illnesses we are facing, and this is a way to do so. And why is it important? Because many of our practitioners have no choice but to work in private sector, because of debt after graduating. We're losing so many healthcare professionals. It is reported in one study, 30 to 60% leave each year. The debt is real. On average, $190,000 for medical school, 80,000 for psychologists, 68,000 for social workers, and 56,000 for psychiatric nurses. And they say over and over again, they want to serve in the community.

Mayor Adams: We hear it all the time. But at the cost of serving in the community and high student loan debt makes it challenging. And this is a tragedy, and we expect better from a city like New York. And this donor is – clearly stated they observed what this city was doing and they wanted to do their part. And we're asking others to do our part. And I'm going to personally make a contribution. And a small contribution from 8.8 million people becomes a big contribution. Anyone that had to experience hospitalization, all who had to visit a hospital, all who had to go and receive a vaccination, we should all, in some way, give a small contribution and to keep our mental health professionals right here, doing what they love to do. It should not be a barrier because of the student loan.

Mayor Adams: And so with the behavioral health loan forgiveness program, heroes can now get back to doing the job that they love, and that's serving the people of this city. Behavioral health concerns can be treated, alcohol and substance use disorders can be treated, and treatments turn lives around. Every time we hear of someone who has gone through some form of treatment, how it has turned their lives around, it really shows you the power of our mental health professionals. It takes people off the street. As we move to our homelessness problem, there's a substantial number of people who are dealing with mental health issues, and it needs to be a combination of having adequate healthcare professionals, treatment facilities, and allowing people to return home in their normal lives, get back to work, get back and reunite with their families, and start the process of healing our cities.

Mayor Adams: So we are grateful to Dr. Katz and H+H for this contribution and this donor. And we want to, again, encourage all New Yorkers to participate in this donation and continue to watch this pot grow. You can donate at That's Let's get his done. Let's keep our mental health behavior health professionals here in our city. And again, great work by the team and getting this done. Thank you very much.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Thank you. Thank you so much, Mayor Adams, and so well said. And I was thinking about, as we are all going through this collective need for healing, one of the things that can make you feel better is gratitude and giving back. And as New Yorkers, to step up and do that, I think this is such a wonderful opportunity. It's now my pleasure to bring to the podium the president and CEO of Health + Hospitals, my friend, Dr. Mitch Katz.

Dr. Mitchell Katz, CEO and President, NYC Health + Hospitals: Hello, everyone. This event brings together so many things that I deeply love. First, that I get to work for a mayor and a deputy mayor who care about the mentally ill, understand the challenges they are. There are many people with serious mental illness who are amazing doers all over the world, who do amazing things. And this is an opportunity to help those who are struggling.

Dr. Katz: We're at Harlem Hospital, one of the great hospitals of H + H, and I thank George and Philip and all the great clinicians you see here for the work they do every day to save lives. This is an important trauma center, an important place where people get their care, and we are very proud of what the people of Harlem do.

Dr. Katz: And then this amazing gift. So this anonymous donor first got to know our work during COVID, the work of the heroes here, had reached out to us and said, "We want to help." And they gave us dollars during COVID for fresh clothing for doctors, nurses, and other clinical staff who were afraid to leave the hospital with their clothing, for fear that they would infect other people. There was no food because all of the restaurants were all closed. And so we would bring in food. People couldn't get here to Harlem and our other hospitals because the transportation wasn't running. So we were able to do Ubers. There were people who had to live in hotels because they had family members who were in danger, and they couldn't return home. And so they had helped us at this time.

Dr. Katz: And following the pandemic, they asked, "How can we help more?" And what I told them, which brings another thread that's very important to me, I said, "Well, right now, one of our biggest challenges is that we want to expand mental health services." And our mayor has asked us to. Chair Narcisse has talked about the incredible need for mental health services. And I have positions open. Thanks to my mayor, I have funding, but I can't hire people. They're not in the market for me to hire them. And the people I especially want to hire are people who come from the diverse communities that our hospitals have always served, people who've grown up as immigrants.

Dr. Katz: There's so many doctors and nurses who came to our hospitals as children, who came with their parents. And it's a wonderful tradition, but they can't afford to come here because they have huge student loans. And so they need to work in places that pay more. And if we could have a plan that would pay off their debt, then they would come to work for us.

Dr. Katz: And so, an important statistic, we do about 20% of the general hospital beds in New York City. We do 55% of the mental health beds. Why is that? Because we do it out of mission. The other hospitals have pretty much gotten out of the business of doing mental health services because they can't break even. We, as Health + Hospitals, are a mission-based organization. We do what the community needs. What the community needs is mental health. And with this gift, we will have the professionals to do it. So thank you all for coming.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So true. We can't just keep doing the same thing and think we're going to get a different result. So I love that we're trying innovative things, and we'll look at the data, and we'll see what it says. Right now, I'd like to bring to the podium, Adriana Rodriguez-Bosman, who is a social worker here at Health + Hospital, to tell us how this will have an effect on the front lines. I just also want to thank you for coming out in this heat. And you're a couple of weeks from giving birth, and your little one is here. So for the one-and-a-half of you, come on up. Let me not forget.


Adriana Rodriguez-Bosman, Clinical Social Worker, NYC Health + Hospitals: Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. Thank you, everyone, for having me here today. My name is Adriana Rodriguez-Bosman, and I am a proud New Yorker, Latina, and a clinical social worker at New York City Health + Hospitals, Gotham Health, the Roberto Clemente Center. I got into this work because, coming from a family of migrants, I understood what trauma and discrimination looked like firsthand, how broken systems can break the people you love and the community. As a clinical social worker, I provide direct care and a safe space for a largely Latino community to find solutions to their trauma and their pain.

Rodriguez-Bosman: You don't become a social worker for the pay. You do it for your dedication and personal mission for the people. We enter this work, knowing that there's a huge price tag that comes with it. This announcement today is a critical step forward for workers like myself, who have provided support and care to New Yorkers during their roughest times.

Rodriguez-Bosman: Growing up, I was told that, if I did what I loved, I would never work a day in my life. And for the past seven years, that couldn't be more true for myself. I love what I do, and I love working for the city. I'm super-proud to call myself a frontline worker to tackling this mental health crisis that New York faces. And this is a ray of sunshine, of hope that we could continue to do this work as public servants. Thank you, Mayor Adams, for having me today.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

Rodriguez-Bosman: Thank you.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Thank both of you.

Mayor Adams: When is your baby due?

Rodriguez-Bosman: September.

Mayor Adams: Do it before the 22nd, so it could be a Virgo.

Rodriguez-Bosman: It's the 22nd, so we'll see.


Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Only a mom could have to speak and then hope to hold – What is that? Everybody's like, "Come on." In her heels, looking cute. Can we just give her one more round of applause, please? Lord, have mercy. Very good, baby girl. I would've let you speak. We're going to remember that. We're going to talk about that at your wedding one day. Okay. I know we have some elected officials here, if you also would like to say a word. Sure. Come on up.


Mayor Adams: Thank you.


Question: Couple quick things. One, if you don't mind my asking, you're going to make a donation. Can you share with us what the donation will look like?

Mayor Adams: It would be an impressive one. That's the way that you donate, too.

Question: On the same thing, Dr. Katz. What is the total donation? And what is the cap for each student? Is there a cap on what they-

Dr. Katz: Yeah, so the donation is $1 million, and the cap is 30,000 or 50,000? 50. 50,000 per person.

Question: How many mental health positions do you need to fill? Do you hope to fill?

Dr. Katz: Well, this gift, as the mayor said, is only part of the solution. We have many, many positions that we would fill, in the hundreds, if we could, but this begins to chip away at that.

Question: [Inaudible] and I intend it to be on topic. The New York Post has pictures today of people begging on the highway, on the FDR Drive, the Harlem River Drive. Would that behavior fall under this mental health issue, and what would you do about that?

Mayor Adams: And I didn't see that story this morning when I read, but we're going to zero in once we see it. We're going to zero in, and it can't happen on the highway. It's dangerous, and we're going to provide people with the services they need. And what we have been doing, in a very strategic way... Our city is divided by precincts. And those precincts are divided by sectors.

Mayor Adams: And so, our city's extremely methodical in how we observe things. Every officer on patrol is told to canvass his or her precinct for issues like that. Not to respond, because we don't want a heavy-handed police present unless it's a dangerous situation. But to get it back to us, so we could use the coordination that Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom has put together. And so, if there's an area where there's repeated panhandling on the highways, that should be part of our tracker, so that we can get the services there. So I'm going to look at their story, and I'm going to just reinforce... Every Sunday, we have a conversation, that the deputy mayor chairs – talk about locations like that. So we can put the resources there, mental health professionals there, as well as sanitation there. They clean up our highways.

Mayor Adams: And so, we're going to look at that. And if those areas are repeated, then those commanding officers are going to have to explain if it's not recorded already for us. But it is part of the overall approach to meeting people with mental health issues. We have, historically, we have been walking past them. We have been acting like we don't see them. This administration's not going to do that. Okay, folks, we going to spare y'all-


Question: What is the current situation in the city now? Do you know what cooling centers are open? What's going on in the city-

Mayor Adams: I'm sorry. Which one is that?

Question: Heat.

Mayor Adams: The heat. Yes, yes, yes. Yep, yep, yep. Actually, we should have did a heat advisory beforehand. I believe we are over 100. So, I was just talking to the doctor as I walked in, the CEO of the hospital as I walked in, to say, "Are we getting any cases? Are we seeing heat advisory issues?" And he stated, no. It appears as though, through the media and through other notifications, people are taking the notice seriously. We only had one heat-related death – was reported thus far, but we opened the cooling systems. And so, I believe people are really responding. This place here – is cool here, but there's a lot of cooling centers that are available. And so, we're not seeing a medical crisis because of the heat.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor Adams: I'm sorry?

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor Adams: Yeah.

Question: And also, can you comment... I guess this afternoon in the Bronx, there's a big presser about a hub being open to help folks with the application and licensing process with that. What are your thoughts on that?

Mayor Adams: Which one?

Question: In the Bronx, a cannabis club, a cannabis hub, where they're going to organize. Schumer's going to be up there and some other neighborhood groups, the Bronx Defenders, to help people with the licensing and application process.

Mayor Adams: Yes. We have a Cannabis Task Force, because Albany passed the legislation, and there are a lot of desires to get it right. Other municipalities have not gotten it right. And what we want to do is to show the opportunities that are available, help people with the licenses. We allocated a few million dollars through our small business services to really coordinate with all of those in this industry, so that we can get it right. You can't have an illegal operation when there's a legal operation. And if you don't coordinate correctly, it's going to defeat the entire purpose. And so I'm not familiar with what the senator is doing in the Bronx, but we're forward thinking in this.

Mayor Adams: We put together an amazing task force. We had a meeting with approximately 100 people in the industry, and they're breaking into sections, so that they could have tables around different areas of the cannabis industry. This is new for New York State. Many people have attempted to do this in other municipalities and they have failed. They have not dealt with the legacy, not dealt with those who were previously unfairly targeted. We don't want to do that. We want to get it right and we put money behind getting it right. And we want to assist people on how to start these businesses. But we all know the ideal of opening a business is different from running a business. And we want to make sure people get good, sound, business instructions. That's our goal.

Question: You talked a lot last week about the increased population coming into the homeless shelter system. What is the excess capacity like in that system? And can you talk about what are you doing to add beds and how many additional beds are needed?

Mayor Adams: Number one, this is an opportunity for New Yorkers to move away from not in my backyard. We all must share the crises. Our approach has been to divide up the homeless issue, even prior to the asylum seekers by councilmanic districts. We presented to all the Council persons, we had a meeting with all the Council persons, and we showed them the shelters they have in their locations. And we said, let's partner together as we deal with this New York problem, these are our neighbors. And we have to identify, as a Council person, partner with us and tell us, where would you like to shelter in your district? Particularly those who had little or no shelters. Now with this influx of people seeking asylum and support, now we have to go beyond that. We're looking at the potential of emergency shelters in hotels and other facilities we want, we want to get our faith based community involved.

Mayor Adams: If there was ever an all hands on deck moment, this is it. This is it. Our system was inundated with those who were seeking shelter because of the callousness of those other states that push them out. We're here, we are receiving them, and everyone is going to have to be on board and we can't have the historical I believe people should be housed, but just don't house them on my block. Everyone's block is going to be impacted by this. And so we have to add our advocacy with our ability to help our neighbors, and we need everyone on board with this, because as I stated last week, our schools are going to be impacted, our healthcare systems is going to be impacted, our infrastructure's going to be impacted, but we are willing to do our job and we are going to do our job and we are going to need all New Yorkers to be with us on this.

Question: Mr. Mayor, the World Health Organization said that the monkeypox is now a, I think the words they used was global emergency. Does that change anything with how we're working with that problem?

Mayor Adams: The deputy mayor communicated with the commissioner of the Department of Health to determine what is our step of how we're going to designate it here in the city. Every skill I've ever acquired is coming to play right now. I mean, from monkeypox to COVID to asylum seekers, this is a moment where leadership matters. I think the creator knew we were going to have a difficult time, so she made sure I was mayor at this time. I'm prepared for this moment. I built a great team. We are meeting these challenges as they come and I'm just thankful that I'm here to serve this city and the entire team – my five women deputy mayors have led from the front and I never hear them complaining.

Mayor Adams: They're always coming up with new ways of solving the problems that we face, and monkeypox is a problem. We vaccinated several New Yorkers. Because of our advocacy, we received a thousand more. We had the overwhelming number of cases, but we were not receiving the proportionality of the number of vaccines. The White House heard us, they are getting the vaccines here. Almost 90% of the cases in this state is in New York City. And so this is, once again, we're the epicenter again of dealing with monkeypox and we're going to meet the challenge and move forward with it. Thank you. Thank you all.


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