Mayor’s renowned mental health agency needs a leader: criticism

A bloody mass shooting on a crowded Brooklyn subway train by a seemingly deranged man raises concerns about whether a re-image of the de Blasio-era ‘ThriveNYC’ initiative has the leadership to handle the health crisis growing mentality of the city.

In videos posted to social media, alleged subway terrorist Frank James claimed he had a diagnosed mental illness and railed against what he called the ‘horror spectacle’ of mental health services from the city.

“Mr. Mayor, I’m a victim of your mental health program,” James said in a lengthy clip.

Critics say the sadistic strap attack, which took place on the N train on Tuesday and left 10 shots and 19 injured, should serve as a wake-up call for the city. They also say that after more than three months of work, Mayor Eric Adams must finally select someone to lead the new Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health.

In his final months in office, Mayor de Blasio created the CSMO to permanently replace ThriveNYC, which has spent an estimated $1.5 billion in public funds over six years and has been widely criticized for failing to deliver measurable results for countless New Yorkers with mental health issues. Susan Herman, then director of ThriveNYC, briefly took over as head of the renamed office, but stepped down in December.

Homeless outreach staff engage with homeless people and try to get them into shelters.
AP/John Minchillo

The OCMH is currently led by acting co-directors Jason Hansman and Tina Chiu, both survivors of the de Blasio administration. City officials declined to say when a permanent manager would be appointed.

Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens), a longtime critic of ThriveNYC, said whoever is in charge of the OCMH must focus on protecting New Yorkers from the dangerously mentally ill by relying more on Kendra’s Law, which allows judges to order “assisted outpatient treatment”. .”

“A potentially violent person with a serious mental illness is not going to call a hotline and ask for help,” Holden said.

The NYC subway crackdown is in effect.
In a video posted to social media, Brooklyn subway shooting suspect Frank James said, “Mr. Mayor, I am a victim of your mental health program.
Paul Martinca

The OCMH oversees more than 20 programs and a $281.5 million budget, which primarily covers mental health services provided by the Department of Health and other city agencies. It’s a similar setup to Thrive, which oversaw the previous exercise $226.7 million in municipal spending.

The budget of the OCMH is expected to drop to $210.6 million for the new fiscal year beginning July 1, records show.

Like Thrive, OCMH operates with a staff that hovers around two dozen.

Homeless outreach staff walk along a train platform on the Manhattan subway, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, in New York City.  New York's latest plan to tackle both crime and homelessness in subways sprang into action on Monday after police recorded more than half a dozen attacks on trains and stations during the holiday weekend.
A permanent director of the mayor’s office of community mental health has yet to be named.
AP/John Minchillo

Councilor Linda Lee – who leads the Mental Health, Disabilities and Addictions Committee – said it was ‘too early’ to criticize the OCMH, but believes Adams has a ‘huge opportunity’ to improve mental health services by hiring the right manager.

“I think the reason we haven’t seen a lot of change is that there’s no leader right now – no manager,” said the Democrat from Queens, a former social worker. who previously ran a non-profit organization that helped the mentally ill.

Tuesday morning’s rush hour shooting on the N train at Sunset Park is just the latest in a string of incidents involving the mentally ill on the transit system. Three months ago, a homeless man with a long history of mental illness pushed Michelle Go, 40, to death in front of an oncoming subway train in Times Square, police said.

A homeless outreach worker at the BDFM station on 34th Street in Manhattan.
The OCMH oversees more than 20 programs and a budget of $281.5 million.
Stephane Yang

Under Adams, the OCMH has increased some of the city’s mental health services and more are underway, including an expansion of the multi-agency Behavioral Health Crisis Response Division – known as the “B-HEARD” – which dispatches teams of paramedics and social service workers to respond to 911 calls about non-violent and emotionally disturbed people.

Former Bronx City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, a pastor, was initially a top OCMH leadership candidate for Adams, but was dropped from consideration after an intense community backlash LGBTQ following past anti-gay remarks for which he recently apologized.

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