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As Part of ThriveNYC, First Lady McCray Announces the Placement of 110 Mental Health Service Corps Members Throughout the City

October 5, 2016

Program is the first of its kind in the nation, making New York City a national leader in expanding access to mental health care resources to high-need communities

NEW YORK–– NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in partnership with the Hunter College/Research Foundation, announced today the placement of 110 Mental Health Service Corps (MHSC) members in neighborhoods across the city determined to have the highest need. New York City developed and created the model for this first-of-its-kind initiative, making New York City a nationwide leader in expanding and diversifying access to mental health resources and integrating mental and physical health care.

These mental health professionals, comprised of social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and addiction medicine specialists, will provide mental health and substance use services in communities with the highest need. They will also be trained and mentored in several evidence-based practices, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Collaborative Care innovations in the communities. They will support activities that promote mental health, in addition to improving access to effective treatment for mental illness. 

“One out of every five Americans suffers from mental illness or substance misuse. With our Mental Health Service Corps we are mobilizing our mental health professionals to help make New York City a place where it is as easy to get help for anxiety as it is for allergies,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who spearheads ThriveNYC, the most comprehensive mental health plan of any city or nation.

“We need to knock down both the ideological and physical barriers that prevent people from getting treatment. This is why the Mental Health Service Corps is so essential to fulfilling the vision of ThriveNYC,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Richard Buery. “Not only are we bringing services to the places we know people can easily access them, but we are improving practice by promoting the integration of physical and behavioral health services. When folks can access mental health services at their primary care office, we're signaling that getting treatment for mental health is no different than getting treatment for any other ailment.”

“The Mental Health Service Corps is another important milestone in the ThriveNYC effort to reduce stigma and make mental health services accessible for all New Yorkers,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The collaborative care model embraced by the Corps addresses mental and physical health together, ensuring that the focus is not on a singular aspect of an individual’s health, but on the whole person. I thank the First Lady and Deputy Mayor Buery for making mental health a top priority in this Administration.”

“We are the perfect partner for the Mental Health Service Corps and pleased to work with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to make this program a success.  Hunter College’s social workers and nurses are well educated and trained and an integral part of this much needed program. Good care happens only when primary care, behavioral health and social service providers work together as a team, along with patients, their families, and others in the diverse communities of our city,” said Hunter College President Jennifer Raab.

Members of the first class of the MHSC have been placed in behavioral health and primary care settings across the five boroughs. Within three years, the City will deploy nearly 400 MHSC members throughout the city. These sites have been carefully selected to reach communities with the highest need for mental health resources. Working with primary care and behavioral health offices, MHSC members will focus on providing care for varying populations. The members of the Corps reflect the diversity of New York City, helping New Yorker’s find care from providers who understand their culture. In addition, the care that members provide will also vary based on location, ensuring that the specific needs of each community are met.

The City has identified the lack of easy access to mental health clinicians as one of the biggest challenges to preventing and treating mental illness. As most people get health care in primary care offices, integrating trained staff in these offices is a critical step to identifying mental health challenges and helping people get treatment. To address this need, one group of over 70 MHSC members will be placed in primary care practices to integrate behavioral health screening, assessment and treatment into primary care.

Another group of MHSC members will be placed in mental health and substance use clinics, where they will conduct assessments and provide evidence-based mental health treatment under the supervision of a licensed psychologist or clinical social worker. 

The Corps also includes a group of psychiatrists and addiction medicine specialists to help transform the New York City health care system by providing treatment and consultation in specialty areas where there is a high need for this service. This will allow communities to better manage people with behavioral health needs, no matter the setting.

Research shows that integrating mental and physical health under one roof, an approach known as Collaborative Care, helps people get well. The Corps will expand this approach and provide a model for other health care professionals to adopt. Expanding Collaborative Care will allow more New Yorkers to be treated as a whole person, shifting focus to overall health and breaking down the false distinction between mental health and physical health. When mental health professionals and medical professionals collaborate, studies have shown that people are happier with services and have more positive health outcomes.

During their two-to-three year service period, Corps members will be paid a competitive entry-level salary for full-time work. Earlier this year, DOHMH and Hunter College began recruitment and training of Corps members and started placing members at sites in August. The City is committed to ensuring that the members of MHSC come from diverse backgrounds, expanding the city’s talent pool and promoting employment opportunities and career paths in more community-focused roles of mental health professionals.

Part of ThriveNYC, MHSC is one aspect of a larger effort to change the culture around mental health in New York City. One in five Americans suffers from a mental health condition at any given time. By putting Corps members in communities across the city, the de Blasio Administration is committed to addressing gaps in access to mental health services. ThriveNYC is the most comprehensive mental health plan of any city or state in the nation and MHSC is one more step in mobilizing the resources needed to prevent and treat mental illness in New York City.

“To increase New Yorkers’ access to mental health services, there’s no substitute for deploying more treatment professionals in the neighborhoods that need it most,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I applaud the Health Department for its commitment to expanding access to mental health services through this service corps, and the broader ThriveNYC initiative.”

“The innovative de Blasio Administration program to place Mental Health Service Corps graduates in underserved communities with the highest need can serve as a model of collaborative care for local and state governments around the nation.  Through this and other initiatives, ThriveNYC is helping to expand access to critical mental health services and integrate them more fully into the city’s health care networks and facilities,” said Assembly Member and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health Richard N. Gottfried of Manhattan.  

"The Mental Health Service Corps is a win-win for New York City, and with three Corps members placed in my district alone, a win-win-win for the Bronx. The Corps program is a win-win because it benefits both New Yorkers with mental health issues and the next generation of medical professionals. It benefits both ends of the patient-provider dichotomy by making services more accessible and available for those in need, through the creation of more jobs, with training and certification experience for those newly entering the fields of social work, psychology, psychiatry, and addiction medicine specialties. I applaud the Administration for their contributions to New York City's collaborative care model and for creating a new corps of service that will undoubtedly be replicated across the nation," said Council Member Andrew Cohen.

"New Yorkers can be proud of the outstanding Mental Health Service Corps members who will be delivering vital services all across our City," said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. "This effort puts New York at the cutting edge of mental health public policy. So many people in need are going to benefit from the intelligence and expertise of these professionals, and they're doing an extraordinary service by joining in this effort. I want to thank First Lady Chirlane McCray, Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett and our incredible Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for making great strides in the effort to address critical mental health issues here in New York."

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