Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife and mental-wellness czar, Chirlane McCray, recently announced a new goal for ThriveNYC, their $850 million mental-health plan: “reach people with the highest needs.” That should’ve been part of the plan from the start, but in any case, it’s a hollow promise.
A close reading of the 2020-2022 Thrive spending plan and “Progress Report” makes clear that the administration will continue to send money to ineffective programs, while giving short shrift to ones that reduce homelessness, arrests and incarceration of the seriously mentally ill. The mayor and his wife justify the continuing boondoggle by reporting meaningless and misleading statistics.
Clearly, Thrive is failing. In New York City, rates of homelessness, arrest, incarceration, violence, hospitalization and calls to 911 involving the mentally ill are rising. Yet these critical metrics aren’t included in ThriveNYC’s new Progress Report, presumably because they are trending in the wrong direction: Calls to the police for emotionally disturbed persons rose to 179,000 in 2019, from 145,000 in 2018. The number of seriously mentally ill homeless people rose to 12,140 in 2018, up from 9,840 three years earlier.
The elephant in the room: 41 percent of the most seriously mentally ill New Yorkers received no treatment in the past year. The program deserves to be judged on a simple metric: Does it deliver effective treatment to the untreated seriously ill? Properly directed funds could make a difference.
DJ Jaffe is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institue, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org., and author of Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill. This piece was adapted from City Journal.
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