First Lady Chirlane McCray Announces NYC Well Exceeds Initial Projections

August 4, 2017

More than 170,000 calls, texts and chats were made to NYC Well since its launch, exceeding maximum initial projections by 25 percent

NEW YORK— First Lady Chirlane McCray today announced that NYC Well, the City’s free, confidential mental health support helpline, has exceeded maximum initial projections by 25 percent since its launch in late October 2016. During the first eight months of operation, NYC Well received more than 170,000 calls, texts and chats; the high demand for service prompted the Health Department to expand its capacity.

NYC Well is a one-click, one-call connection to counseling, crisis intervention, peer support and referrals to ongoing treatment services serving all five boroughs. A cornerstone of ThriveNYC, NYC Well is available 24/7, accessible in more than 200 languages and staffed by professional mental health counselors at the NYC Well Call Center. The program is administered by the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA-NYC) and funded through the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“For too long, too many New Yorkers didn’t know where to turn when they needed mental health services. Now, just eight months after launching, thousands of people have placed calls to NYC Well for help connecting to mental health services, for themselves or someone they love." said First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray, who leads the City’s mental health and substance misuse efforts. “NYC Well is a free and confidential helpline, which means no one has to struggle alone, and the popularity of the service helps lessen the stigma around mental health that still plagues our communities. I praise every person who has taken that courageous first step to call, text, or chat, and I applaud our incredible counselors who are committed to serving their fellow New Yorkers.”

“NYC Well makes it easy for all New Yorkers to get the care they need by calling, texting or chatting. No one should be in a situation where they don't know what to do for themselves or a loved one who is experiencing mental health challenges. After eight full months of service it is clear that NYC Well is meeting a significant need across all five boroughs within NYC,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Richard Buery, who implements ThriveNYC.

The NYC Well Call Center Staff provides support to New Yorkers at three different intervention levels:

  • Crisis – Counselors handle the majority of calls requiring immediate de-escalation services – offering safety planning strategies and other forms of support.
  • Support – Counselors cater to those in need of better coping mechanisms or assistance with de-escalating concerns.
  • Information & Referral – Counselors educate individuals about a variety of mental health and substance misuse services.

 

Of those who contacted NYC Well from October 2016 to June 2017, 13 percent were identified as individuals in crisis, 47 percent were seeking support and 40 percent needed information or a referral for services. Since the beginning of the program, 7,679 people consented to follow-up services and 2,732 people requested to be transferred to immediate behavioral health services by NYC Well counselors.

NYC Well received as many as 900+ calls a day during the weeks coinciding with the ad campaign “NYC Well Helps Me” in May and June of this year. And in a given week, 10 to 15 percent of people opted to speak with an NYC Well peer specialist – someone who uses their own lived experiences with mental illness or substance misuse to support others.

Fifty-six percent of people who utilized NYC Well sought help for themselves while 8 percent sought help for a friend or relative. The same is true for providers who sought help for their respective communities. And 29 percent of people did not reveal their connection to the person about whom they called.

Through “NYC Helps Me,” the City has invested in expanding public awareness and community engagement to reduce the stigma around mental health and substance misuse. During the first week of the campaign, there was an increase of 757 contacts to NYC Well compared to the previous week.

“NYC Well has gone above and beyond our expectations in providing New Yorkers a service that uses the ways we communicate now: call, text and chat,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “I want to remind all New Yorkers who are concerned about their mental health or the mental health of a loved one that they can reach NYC Well at any hour of the day, any day of the year. Pursuing health is never a sign of weakness.”

“NYC Well is key to how ThriveNYC is expanding the ways we think about access to mental health care, information, and real-time support,” said Dr. Gary Belkin, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “It has provided solutions and a reliable resource for people with the full spectrum and severity of mental health and substance use needs. The ever-increasing demand only underscores that we press on with more needed change and attention to gaps in care.”

“The increase to NYC Well's capacity has brought help and hope to more New Yorkers, especially in times when support is most needed,” said Kimberly Williams, President & CEO of the Mental Health Association of New York City, which administers NYC Well. “We’re committed to continuing our collaboration with the City and the Health Department to support individuals in crisis and connect those reaching out to the information and services they need.”

“In an era where mental health is too often stigmatized or difficult to access, I commend First Lady Chirlane McCray and the Health Department for bringing this important issue to the forefront and for providing New Yorkers with better access to vital mental health care through NYC Well. The NYC Well one-stop-shop hotline has been a vital resource for thousands of New Yorkers in-need, and provides confidential mental health support to those who may have no one else to turn to. New Yorkers should not be afraid to ask for help when it comes to mental health support and it is my hope that NYC Well continues to succeed,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“The early success of NYC Well demonstrates what can be done to turn the corner on our national mental health crisis if we positive engage communities and support them adequate resources,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “I commend the City for leading the way on shattering the stigma around mental health challenges. The support services provided by NYC Well are changing the lives of thousands of Brooklynites seeking help with a variety of treatable issues, including depression and substance abuse.”

“From the moment NYC Well launched, we have been able to open our arms to more New Yorkers with mental health conditions by making it easier to access help and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health,” said Congressman Joe Crowley. “I’m thrilled the City is expanding their capacity to provide the services that so often improve and help save lives. I thank  First Lady Chirlane McCray and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for making this program a cornerstone of their initiative to support New Yorkers. I have no doubt NYC Well will continue to have a positive impact on our communities.”

“The NYC Well Mental Health Hotline has provided excellent services to New Yorkers, offering counseling, crisis intervention, peer support and referrals to ongoing treatment services in all five boroughs. I applaud NYC Well for exceeding their initial outreach goals by 25 percent. Those who are dealing with mental illnesses, distress, or addiction should not have to suffer alone,” said Congressman Eliot Engel

“I’m glad that so many New Yorkers are using this valuable service, and encourage all those who may be struggling with mental illness to reach out to these counselors. This helpline to connect people to critical resources is an important component of comprehensive mental health services. No one should feel alone when they are dealing with a mental health issue or crisis,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

“The success and expansion of NYC Well will help further our goal of ensuring no New Yorker has to struggle through mental illness or addiction alone,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “I am extremely glad that New Yorkers now have immediate access to reliable and free mental health services. I commend the efforts of First Lady McCray, the Health Department, and MHA-NYC for providing these much needed resources in our City.” 

“NYC Well works,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the NYS Assembly Committee on Health. “People in need of mental and behavioral health services shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to find them, and this one-stop program is a model for public health outreach.”  

“NYC Well has exceeded our highest expectations, and has connected thousands of New Yorkers with counseling and other mental health supports,” said Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal. “As Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, I know that mental health problems and substance use disorder are often co-occurring conditions; First Lady McCray's commitment to New Yorkers' mental and emotional well-being is helping to save lives.”

“I’m thrilled that NYC Well has done such incredible work and are adding to their ranks,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health. ”NYC Well acts as a lifeline and a resource to so many New Yorkers who are struggling with mental health illness or know someone who might be.”

“New York is incredibly lucky to have a First Lady who successfully commits her time and energy to such a worthwhile effort,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. “Eliminating the stigmas and barriers that keep people from accessing the life-saving help they need to cope with mental health issues is one of the most important issues of our time and NYC Well is making tremendous progress in that regard. I applaud First Lady Chirlane McCray, Mayor de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett for recognizing and addressing the needs of our City’s most vulnerable citizens.”

“The progress of NYC Well shows that by making mental health resources easily accessible to the public, we can help a wide range of individuals in need. The confidentiality offered through NYC Well helps reduce stigmatization and ensure fast access to services. I applaud its progress, and the work of the First Lady and ThriveNYC, in tackling mental health issues head on,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres

Other forms of successful community outreach to promote NYC Well include the implementation of the Community Conversation series, which allows for the First Lady alongside City agency partners to connect directly with New Yorkers and address community mental health needs. Further, the second annual Weekend of Faith for Mental Health in April brought together 2,000 houses of worship in New York City to focus on issues of substance misuse and mental health. Over half of a million New Yorkers were reached throughout the course of the weekend – and more than 40 cities nationwide.

Individuals seeking support for mental illness or substance use for themselves or their loved ones can contact NYC Well by calling 1-888-NYC-WELL, texting “WELL” to 65173 or going to nyc.gov/nycwell.

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