Teams of social workers and therapists deployed to Chinatown in the aftermath of the weekend’s savage attacks would only be possible with Chirlane McCray’s mental health initiative ThriveNYC, she asserted Tuesday — a claim disputed by homeless outreach groups.
“Before Thrive we would not have been able to have the people on the ground working with this community,” McCray said on NY1, even though the $1 billion plan augments a decades-old model that uses groups of health professionals to treat people with mental illness.
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he was sending the outreach teams staffed by Thrive and the city Department of Health into the neighborhood to support residents in the wake of the murders by suspect Randy Santos, who was also homeless.
“It’s a terrible thing that happened. I get that it’s terrible,” McCray said. “What we can do is make sure we have mental health workers, psychiatrists, licensed clinical social workers who are on the ground talking with people making sure that people who are on the street are getting evaluated.
“Before Thrive we wouldn’t even have that capacity,” she claimed about her signature initiative launched in 2015.
But that’s not entirely true, according to Catherine Trapani, director of Homeless Services United.
“One thing about the Thrive initiative that has been extremely helpful to homeless folks is that it supports those ACT teams,” Trapani said, referring to the Assertive Community Treatment.
But, she stressed, there are already local resources in the area.
“Teams are being deployed in the wake of this tragedy and hope that the additional outreach pledged is well coordinated with the teams on the ground who have in-depth knowledge of the clients on the streets,” Trapani said.
“What I don’t want is a duplication of outreach efforts that could undermine existing efforts,” she said.
On Monday, critics said the Chinatown killings prove that ThriveNYC — which hasn’t shown effective results — needs an overhaul.
On NY1, McCray struggled to answer host Pat Kiernan’s question about whether the program had any value given its high public cost — $250 million a year.
“You know, Pat, first of all, Thrive is a success because we are talking about mental health five years ago, we would not even being having this discussion, so that’s an improvement right there,” McCray said.
She also said that “thousands” of New Yorkers are dialing into Thrive’s mental health hotline, NYC Well.