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First Lady McCray Hosts Leaders From Across the Nation at 2019 Cities Thrive Mental Health Conference

November 18, 2019

Mental health professionals, public health officials, and government leaders from cities and counties across the country meet to build stronger behavioral health system


NEW YORK—First Lady Chirlane McCray and city officials today hosted the 2019 Cities Thrive Conference, a two-day convening of leaders from across the country focused on building a national movement for mental health reform.

Launched in 2016, Cities Thrive is a coalition of mayors, county officials, tribal leaders and allies who are pioneering innovative ways to address behavioral health challenges across the country. Members of the coalition gather every year to share best practices for creating change at the local level and to develop strategies for making mental health and substance misuse a top policy priority for the federal government. This year’s conference features a series of keynotes, forums and panel discussions on topics including strengthening government’s ability to lead, expanding access to treatment, changing the culture around mental health, and acting early to prevent crisis.

"While Washington has largely failed to address our country's growing behavioral health challenges, cities and counties are at the forefront of the movement for reform," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. "New York City is honored to bring together leaders and experts from around the world who are creating change in their communities. By working together, we can achieve a high standard of health and well-being for everyone in our country."

“Struggles with mental health are a reality in too many American homes. As government, it’s our job to do all we can to tackle this issue and help those in need,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “In New York City, through our groundbreaking effort, ThriveNYC, we are making mental health for all a reality. We're proud to host leaders in our city as we continue our work to ensure every New Yorker has access to the support they deserve."
Despite one in five Americans experiencing a mental health challenge, resources and services in the country are insufficient. Facing inaction from the federal government, the Cities Thrive coalition is committed to developing innovative ways cities can promote mental health by closing treatment gaps and partnering with communities to create culturally competent solutions.

The coalition is guided by the principles of ThriveNYC, an unprecedented, citywide commitment to close critical gaps in mental healthcare. ThriveNYC helps connect New Yorkers to care by:

  • Reaching People with the Highest Need: Over 115,000 people in the city have been served by the Crime Victim Assistance Program, which helps those affected by crime or violence by providing support and resources to mitigate trauma and navigate the criminal justice system.
  • Eliminating Barriers to Care: Over 141,200 New Yorkers have been trained in Mental Health First Aid to date with a goal of 250,000 by end of Fiscal Year 2021. ThriveNYC has also engaged employers in high-pressure industries to provide them with the tools and resources to make their workplaces more supportive of mental health.
  • Strengthening Crisis Prevention and Response: New York City is investing in new mobile intervention and treatment teams, which bring clinical mental health support to people with serious needs in their communities.
  • Developing Resiliency for the Youngest New Yorkers: ThriveNYC partnered with the New York City Department of Education to provide onsite mental health clinicians in 173 schools, mental health clinics in 68 schools, and 85 new clinical social workers who provide support for students and schools during and after crises. Additionally, New York City has extended access to Social-Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice Practices to all students for the first time. These practices provide students with the tools they need to name their emotions, overcome conflicts and repair relationships.

Conference speakers included: First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray; Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio; First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan; Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Phillip J. Thompson; Director of the Office of ThriveNYC Susan Herman; Mayor Scott Fadness of Fishers, Indiana; 19th Surgeon General of the U.S. Dr. Vivek Murthy; NYC Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Raul Perea-Henze; Former Executive Deputy Commissioner at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Gary Belkin; President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health Chuck Ingoglia; Executive Director of Chaplaincy and Staff Wellness at the City of New York Department of Correction Justin Von Bujdoss; Thrive London (LDN) Co-Lead Jacqui Dyer; Acting CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Angela Kimball; President and CEO of Mental Health America Paul Gionfriddo; and Nashua Fire Chief Brian Rhodes.

“Thrive NYC has dramatically changed how we approach and tackle mental health in New York City and is tied to this Administrations mission of providing opportunity and fairness to all,” said First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan. “Sharing this strategic vision with city leaders from across the world is so vital to ending the stigma of mental health and ensuring all have the care they need.”

“There are a wide variety of factors that cause mental distress, including stress from unemployment, poverty, bad housing, and lack of affordable and accessible transportation,” said J. Phillip Thompson, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. “By bringing together some of our best thinkers on mental health through the Cities Thrive Mental Health Conference, we can identify ways to effectively address these and other behavioral health challenges at the local, state and national level.”

“In New York City, we're seizing opportunities to fill gaps in the existing mental healthcare system, adding services around the city so that more people get care where and when they need it. From mobile treatment teams to school clinics, shelter settings to workplaces, we're exploring what it means to deliver mental health for all, and I'm proud to share our successes with leaders from around the country,” said Susan Herman, Director of the Office of ThriveNYC.

“Mental illness is one of the greatest challenges of this generation, and one we must not ignore,” said Fishers, Indiana Mayor Scott Fadness. “When faced with this challenge five years ago, we asked how our city could marshal its collective resources to create systemic and dynamic change for those suffering in quiet despair. With that framework in mind, our city set about disrupting public safety’s role, changing the dynamics in our schools, and lessening the stigma associated with mental illness. While still working toward these goals, we stand alongside the collective work of mayors and leaders across the country to change the trajectory of mental illness in America.”

"In California, we often look to New York as a pioneer in statewide mental health best practices. While we can always do a better job of meeting the mental health needs of our communities by reviewing and modifying current systems, we must also endeavor to address the challenges we face with bold and innovative programs much like NYC Thrive has through the six-point plan that seeks to provide mental health care for all.  Through this bold vision, you have touched the lives of tens of thousands of people by way of changing the culture, closing treatment gaps, partnering with the community, making better use of data, and strengthening the government's ability to lead.  I appreciate your leadership and am honored to partner with you,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Founder of the Steinberg Institute.

“In communities across the country, NAMI is working to better the lives of people with mental illness. We’ve seen firsthand that solutions created on local level – from peer support to education to advocating for better access to treatment – can be successful nationwide. We must work together and use our collective voices to create change and help all Americans with mental health conditions,” said Angela Kimball, Acting Chief Executive Officer at the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

“As a former local elected official and leader of the nation’s longest-standing mental health advocacy organization, I am excited to join this gathering of leaders who are working back home to address mental health concerns in their communities and who are committed to working together to address mental health challenges before Stage 4 crises occur and to improve mental health services throughout the nation,” said Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO of Mental Health America.

“We are facing a mental health crisis in our country, and Cities Thrive has developed a visionary plan empowering cities across New York to address this national emergency at the local level. Cities Thrive is working to drive cultural change surrounding mental health from a city-wide perspective by embracing innovation and improving access to care. Like the National Council, Cities Thrive understands that without mental health, there is no health,” said Chuck Ingoglia, President and CEO National Council for Behavioral Health.

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