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NYC Dept. of Correction Receives Federal Grant to Help Inmates with Mental Health Needs

Clinic and Intake Support Team Initiative will begin later this winter in three facilities.


East Elmhurst, NY -- The New York City Department of Correction will share in a $250,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant that will help create clinic and intake support teams to dually assist inmates with mental health needs and provide reinforcement to correctional officers during peak incident times, Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte announced.


The grant is being shared among the Department of Correction; NYC DOC’s health provider, NYC Health + Hospitals, and the Vera Institute of Justice, a not-for-profit that works to improve justice systems in the United States. The new teams will help conduct mental health interventions, expedite clinic cases, educate individuals on the resources available to them, and identify individuals with mental illness who may have gone undiagnosed during intake, the process by which inmates enter DOC facilities. 


“A large portion of our inmate population – about 42% – have mental health needs,” said New York City Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte. “Today, we thank the U.S. Department of Justice for providing us with the opportunity to better serve this special population and helping us create support teams who will assist in providing the care and attention they need. In the last two years, DOC, along with NYC Health + Hospitals and the Vera Institute, have worked to expand programs and services to help those with mental health needs. With this new grant, we will be able to serve those in our custody even better than before.”


In addition to providing services to inmates, support teams will also offer support to correctional staff by providing skill refreshers and reinforcement of Mental Health First Aid training and techniques, bringing care packages to staff, and offering guidance. Through their emphasis on mental health first aid and de-escalation, the support teams will strengthen the efforts of the agency’s 14-Point Anti-Violence Agenda, aiming to reduce uses of force in these historically volatile areas.


The pilot phase of the program is scheduled to begin later this winter in three facilities. By July 30, 2019, the Department of Correction hopes to have clinic and intake support teams operating in all DOC facilities.


“When nearly half of those housed in correctional facilities suffer from some degree of mental illness, it is essential to tailor resources to meet the needs of both inmates and correction officers so they can respond responsibly and compassionately. A primary focus of the de Blasio Administration is to provide all New Yorkers access to mental health help through ThriveNYC. This much-needed grant from the Department of Justice will further the important work we’ve already begun in city facilities, including specialized mental health care units, additional training for officers, and expansion of substance use disorder treatments,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who spearheads the City’s mental health and substance misuse efforts and leads the Cities Thrive coalition.


“Vera is pleased to join the New York City Department of Corrections and NYC Health + Hospitals in this important effort to improve how we identify and treat people with mental illness in the justice system,” said Ayesha Delany-Brumsey, director of Vera’s Substance Use and Mental Health program. “We believe this project will model an innovative approach to improving the not only the wellbeing of people with mental illness who are detained at Rikers, but also the officers who work there.”


“We are pleased to support these efforts to create a more stable environment in the City’s jails,” said Dr. Patsy Yang, Senior Vice President of NYC Health + Hospitals for Correctional Health Services. “CHS has implemented a number of initiatives to improve care for our patients, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the Department of Correction.”


"The U.S. Department of Justice grant is good news,” said Council Member Andy Cohen, chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services.   “These funds will help implement the ambitious goal of ThriveNYC to bring mental health care out of the shadows and stop the stigma of mental illness; in conjunction with, my legislation recently passed to ensure that individuals in the justice system with mental health issues are screened before even entering the city jails and continuity of care gaps are closed.  All of us, the Mayor, the Department of Corrections, Health + Hospitals and the City Council are in agreement that we must support inmates with mental illness and provide state of the art training to the correctional officers who work with them every day.”


 As a part of the project, DOC will also be developing facility-specific orientation videos for the intake areas of each of the 14 jails as well as clinic-resource videos to be played in the clinic waiting areas. These videos will introduce inmates to available resources such as educational, workforce, health, and mental-health programming, DOC policies and procedures regarding housing, commissary, visitation, and correspondence, and appropriate contacts for various services.