With a growing mental health crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and fueling public safety concerns, Stringer’s plans would significantly shore up resources and support for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges, increase the availability of stabilization & Safe Haven beds and invest in supportive housing
Stringer calls out significant reduction of psychiatric beds in private hospitals as core to the growing mental health crisis
Stringer: “New Yorkers with serious mental health challenges need our support now more than ever. As mayor, I will take bold, proactive steps to get vulnerable New Yorkers the help they need with better access to housing and quality psychiatric healthcare and supportive services. When we help the neediest among us, we help and protect all New Yorkers.”
Video of the press conference available here
New York, NY – With a growing mental health crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and fueling public safety concerns, City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer today outlined robust plans to proactively address the mental health crisis head on, improve quality care and support for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges, and reverse disastrous shrinkage of psychiatric beds in New York City.
Standing in front of Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, one of many for-profit hospital systems that significantly reduced in-patient psychiatric care despite the growing demand, Stringer’s plans would drastically shore up in-patient psychiatric resources to improve quality care for vulnerable populations and increase the availability of stabilization and Safe Haven beds to get those in need off the street and into safe, supportive programs quickly.
“New Yorkers with serious mental health challenges need our support now more than ever. Our city government has turned a blind eye to their pain and suffering for too long, leaving them to fend for themselves despite the risk they pose to themselves and to the public. We are experiencing a mental health and public safety crisis and part of the problem is a decline in accessible psychiatric care. This can’t go on any longer and when I’m mayor it won’t,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer. “As mayor, I will take bold, proactive steps to get vulnerable New Yorkers the help they need with better access to housing, quality psychiatric healthcare and supportive services. When we help the neediest among us, we help and protect all New Yorkers. We have the tools and resources at our disposal to help those who need it most, but we need smart leadership, bold plans and experience to make it happen. When I’m mayor, I’ll be ready on day one to bring the change we need to serve and uplift all New Yorkers, including the neediest among us.”
Stringer’s agenda comes as mental health calls to the NYPD reporting emotionally disturbed persons has increased substantially. According to city data, the city’s 311 system recorded over 17,330 calls between March and December 2020 related to mental health issues — nearly 85 times more than the 206 calls recorded during the same time period in 2019. To address the rising mental health crisis and growing demand for more in-patient psychiatric care, Stringer’s proposal would work to restore and expand in-patient psychiatric beds at private, for-profit hospitals, which amid the pandemic took advantage of a state directive to bypass the normal public process for reducing the number of in-patient psychiatric beds, which are not as lucrative for hospitals as other kinds of beds, raising concerns that many may never come back, despite the demonstrated need.
According to recent research compiled by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA):
NYC’s mental health crisis is deepening:
- Between 2015 and 2018, NYPD calls reporting emotionally disturbed persons increased about 23%.
- In the same time frame, according to HUD data, the seriously mentally ill homeless population in NYC jumped 23%.
- Since the onset of the COVID crisis, calls to New York City’s Mental HealthHotline and NAMI’s suicide hotline have skyrocketed.
In-patient psychiatric care is disappearing:
- In 2000, New York State had 6,055 certified in-patient psychiatric beds. By 2018 that number had dropped 12% to 5,419.
- In New York City particularly, access to in-patient psychiatric care has dropped at the same time as the population and the need have mushroomed. NYC accounts for 72% of the decline in in-patient psychiatric beds between 2000 and 2019, a total loss of 459 beds. NYC gained nearly 400,000 residents in this timeframe.
- Psychiatric bed closures in the Northwell system, the state’s largest private healthcare system, represent 25% of statewide closures. Meanwhile, H+H hospitals Bellevue, Kings County, and Elmhurst account for roughly 25% of in-patient psychiatric beds in NYC.
- Meanwhile, New York Presbyterian has cut its psychiatric capacity by nearly 80 beds, or 20%, over the last 18 years. NYP has recently announced a plan to eliminate 50 psychiatric beds from Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn.
- Thirty hospitals statewide have repurposed about 600 psychiatric beds for COVID-19 patients, according to the state Office of Mental Health. It is unclear if they will come back online or if they are permanently shut down.
As Mayor, Stringer’s priorities would:
- Improve quality of care for vulnerable populations: As Mayor, Scott will leverage the city’s resources to compel private hospitals to add more in-patient psychiatric beds and lessen the burden on H+H. At the same time, he will expand models of culturally competent, trauma-informed care for marginalized populations across NYC, including new immigrants, refugees and asylees, and victims of trafficking and/or domestic or other forms of violence, and people involved in our criminal legal system.
- Increase the availability of stabilization and Safe Haven beds to get those in need off the street quickly, and invest in supportive housing: Safe Haven and stabilization beds are less formal spaces with fewer restrictions than regular shelters. These beds are a proven way to assist those who the traditional shelter system fails to reach. As Mayor, Scott will prioritize working with providers to increase the number of shelter beds and will work to improve the conditions of existing shelters.
Supportive housing—affordable housing that includes onsite services that help people overcome the challenges they face—is a proven and cost-effective way to address chronic homelessness of single adults. Unfortunately, not all supportive housing providers have the range of services necessary to place high-needs individuals. As Mayor, Scott will review existing supportive housing contracts, work with the state to expand our supportive housing network by an additional 30,000 beds over the next 10 years to meet the growing need, and ensure that the system has the wealth of services necessary to serve homeless individuals. Scott will ensure the City adopts a rapid rehousing program that prioritizes supportive housing placements for New Yorkers in crisis.
- Transform our mental health crisis response system. As Mayor, Scott will move the responsibility for responding to mental health crises away from the NYPD to trained health-first crisis response teams and include licensed peer mental health workers as part of crisis response teams. He will also expand funding for pre-crisis preventive and post-crisis recovery programs, such as crisis respite services, and Fountain House/clubhouse psychosocial rehabilitation centers and their associated digital/telehealth analogs.
- Remove agency silos regarding social services and homelessness: Individuals do not only enter the shelter system by eviction—many enter after being in a hospital, a correctional facility, or other social service entity. Each time a City agency or institution interacts with a person, it is a chance to stop homelessness before it starts with an integrated, citywide approach. However, only DHS is graded in the Mayor’s Management Report on whether it is taking steps to reduce homelessness. Scott will break down silos between the nearly dozen City agencies servicing homeless New Yorkers and hold all agencies and institutions accountable for proactively intervening before individuals enter the shelter system.
- Set aside 15% of all affordable housing units for the formerly homeless: The City Council passed legislation requiring that 15 percent of all newly constructed units be set aside for formerly homeless families and individuals, and HPD policy requires the same for all newly preserved units. This is an important step in the right direction, and one Scott has advocated for years. Homeless families or individuals who enter a subsidized unit are far less likely to re-enter the shelter system than an individual entering a market rate unit, according to the Mayor’s Management Report. Additionally, Since 2015, between 1,500 and 2,000 homeless or families have been placed in NYCHA housing each year. Scott will ensure more homeless individuals and families are able to enter NYCHA housing by the number of units that are available for need-based priority placement in NYCHA. As Mayor, Scott will prioritize reducing the shelter population by setting aside a minimum of 15% of all affordable housing units for those in the shelter system.
- Fight the opioid epidemic: A New Yorker dies of an overdose every seven hours. While much progress has been made, we must go further to stem this tide, which is likely to increase further in the wake of COVID-19. Our opioid epidemic reflects not only the pernicious and widespread availability of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical synthetic opioids, but also the devastation laid by the failed War on Drugs and the underlying community conditions, leading to social and economic isolation and despair, that are driving New Yorkers to turn to substance use. As a key strategic public health priority for the City, we must invest in public health approaches that not only influence the supply and demand of opioids, but that make safe, evidence-based prevention, harm reduction, and treatment widely available in the community — while moving away from the over-criminalization of substance use that can prevent New Yorkers from seeking medical help.
– Invest in evidence-based prevention and harm reduction programs in schools, hospitals and communities, centered around education, awareness, and access to and use of naloxone, along with preventive education and mental health services. Scott will also push to expand naloxone distribution to pharmacies without prescription.
– Enhance education and awareness programs focused on fentanyl, a main driver of increased opioid overdoses and deaths.
– Develop multilingual, culturally-competent education campaigns to ensure that linguistic and cultural minorities and non-EFL New Yorkers understand the risk of opioid addiction as well as naloxone use.
– Improve data sharing, education and guidelines to influence opioid prescribing practices. Scott will partner with the state and federal government to ensure that provider training is scaled up, ensuring that all relevant H+H practitioners are trained in safe, responsible, and evidence based opioid prescription.
– Expand access to treatment, housing and supportive services to help New Yorkers on the path to recovery and ensure abstinence is not a condition for getting care and stably housed.
Stringer released a 22-point plan for public health in April and a 27-point plan to address the housing and homelessness crisis in February.
Scott Stringer grew up in Washington Heights in the 1970s. He attended P.S. 152 on Nagle Avenue and I.S. 52 on Academy Street. He graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Marble Hill and John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, a CUNY school.
Stringer was elected City Comptroller in 2013. Prior to serving as Comptroller, he was Manhattan Borough President from 2006 to 2013 and represented the Upper West Side in the New York State Assembly from 1992 to 2005. He and his wife, Elyse Buxbaum, live in Manhattan with their two children, Max and Miles.