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First Lady McCray in Washington, D.C. to Advocate for Mental Health Reform

May 9, 2016

Public health crisis demands local, state and national action

NEW YORK—In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, First Lady Chirlane McCray will travel to Washington, D.C. on May 10, 11 and 12 to advocate for improved access to mental health services by meeting with key congressional members and calling on Congress to bring legislation that would improve mental health to the floor.

While in D.C., the First Lady is scheduled to meet with members of the Mental Health Caucus, host a leadership discussion on minority mental health for TriCaucus members, lead a briefing on mental health for New York City congressional members, and open a roundtable with the Congressional Mental Health Caucus. She will urge Congress to take up legislation that supports early intervention, prevention and treatment, like the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 and the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (TREAT) Act.

Decades of neglect and disinvestment in mental health have created a public health crisis. One in five adult New Yorkers is likely to suffer from a mental health disorder in any given year and depression is the largest source of disability in New York City and worldwide.

In November, led by First Lady McCray, New York City launched ThriveNYC, the nation’s most comprehensive city-driven plan to address mental health. With 54 programs and $850 million dollars, ThriveNYC addresses mental health risks at every stage of life. While providing more resources for the sickest New Yorkers, ThriveNYC also invests in early intervention and prevention, applying proven public health strategies to mental health. ThriveNYC creates a framework for changing the culture of stigma and shame that prevents so many from seeking treatment and lays out a strategy for change that other cities can follow.

Later this month, New York City will announce a state and federal legislative agenda to advance mental health across the country.

“Mental health is a defining issue of our time. With one in five adults likely to suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder in any given year, too many families are damaged, and we lose billions of dollars to lost productivity. City governments can lead the way on mental health, as they have with HIV/AIDS, smoking and other public health challenges. New York City is constructing a system of support with ThriveNYC: to promote mental wellness by addressing risks to prevent disease; intervene early, before people lose much of their lives to mental illness and substance use disorders; and increase access to care in the communities where people live,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “We can achieve even more by working together. The lack of infrastructure and resources for mental health is a national crisis and it will take attention from every level – city, state and federal – to make the kind of progress we need. I’m honored to be meeting with legislators in our nation’s capital to advance mental health.”

“Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to focus the attention of the nation on the public health crisis that has emerged from decades of neglecting mental health. ThriveNYC is New York City’s ambitious and wide-ranging plan to address mental health and substance misuse challenges across the lifespan and across the continuum of care,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Richard Buery. “ThriveNYC’s Mental Health Roadmap focuses on prevention, early identification, access to care and the importance of evidence-based treatment, including further integration of behavioral health services in primary care settings and expansion of access to buprenorphine as an effective treatment for opioid addiction. Addressing these issues requires a concerted and collaborative effort.”

“The importance of providing comprehensive mental health services to those in need cannot be overstated,” said Congressman Eliot Engel, senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. “Mental Health Awareness Month provides a needed opportunity to underscore the critical importance of access to quality mental health care, and I look forward to working collaboratively with First Lady McCray to ensure all New Yorkers are getting the care they need.”

“I commend First Lady McCray’s attention to mental health and welcome her to the Capitol. Mental health and substance abuse go hand-in-hand, and it’s clear government’s response to the opioid abuse epidemic has not been enough. My goal in Congress is to get local organizations the tools they need to win this battle, and I expect to have good news to report very soon. I’ll partner with whomever it takes to deliver results because this isn’t a Republican or a Democrat issue – it’s about human lives,” said Congressman Dan Donovan.

“The suicide rate has hit a thirty year high. There are over 80 accidental deaths a day in the USA as a result of prescription opioids or heroin use. The way these topics are covered in the media, handled in the workplace, taught in schools, and managed by local, state and federal government can influence population health outcomes negatively or positively. ThriveNYC provides a foundation for much needed change so New Yorkers can lead full lives," said Barbara Ricci, Managing Director at Deutsche Bank and co-President of the Board of NAMI-NYC METRO.

"New Yorkers identify mental health issues as one of the most prevalent and worrisome health issues in their communities. The urban environment, in all its complexity and diversity, can make addressing these issues all that more challenging. ThriveNYC uses a comprehensive approach that ranges from early prevention to treatment, which can result in systemic change that can promote mental health and improve mental health treatment for all New Yorkers,” Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, President of The New York Academy of Medicine.

“For decades, governments have ignored mental health, creating a public health crisis that affects one in five adults in any given year. With ThriveNYC, New York City is leading the way by treating mental illness and creating a city that helps its citizens stay mentally well. By prioritizing early intervention and prevention, New York City is creating a model that other cities can use to stay healthy and improve lives. We’ve been advocating for this kind of change for years and are thrilled to stand by New York City to make it happen. We urge other cities, states and the federal government to learn from New York City and join the movement to change the culture on mental health,” Wendy Brennan, Executive Director for NAMI-NYC METRO.

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