NYC’s Department of Health Approves Bringing More Men and Women In Crisis Into East Harlem

You may have heard of Project Renewal’s Support and Connection Center (SCC) which was located on East 116th Street. This innovative project was supposed to allow officers of the 25th Precinct to bring men and women experiencing a crisis, into a supportive dormitory where trained staff members could help with a wide range of resources and assistance (both short and long term).

At a community advisory board meeting, it was announced that the Department of Health (DOHMH) had expanded the catchment area of the East Harlem pilot project to include the 28th and 32nd Precincts. This move was explained by a Department of Health official as a way to “address the underutilization of the beds.”

There was no mention that this move may be in response to the scathing press from May of this year that noted:

East Harlem has served just 45 people — coming out to $1.1 million per visit.

Here is the full article in The City:

https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/5/9/22426250/thrive-nyc-nypd-diversion-centers-for-mentally-ill-sit-empty

The press coverage of the SCC debacle was a huge blow to New York’s DOHMH and the administration of Mayor Deblasio. Many members of HBNA noted how yet again New Yorkers paid millions for a mental health program with little to no result.

To see the full minutes of the SCC CAB meeting and the justification for bringing more men and women in crisis to East Harlem, see:

As a member of the SCC CAB I have written the following response:

Hello Daylyn, 
Thank you for these minutes.

  1. Could we please have a discussion at the next CAB meeting centered on how the decision by DOHMH to take on referrals from neighboring precincts contributes to (bureaucratic) systems of structural racism?  In particular, I would like to hear how the decision by DOHMH to add referrals from neighboring precincts helps an already oversaturated and already extremely vulnerable community.  Perhaps we could all take a look at: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/dpho/race-to-justice-action-kit-impacts-of-racism-on-health.pdf and discuss this in light of the NYC Department of Health’s “Race to Justice internal reform effort to help [their] staff learn what they can do to better address racial health gaps and improve health outcomes” (see: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/race-to-justice.page)
  2. I would also like to know if when SCC was being proposed and presented to the East Harlem community, was it made clear that the East Harlem SCC would/could take on referrals from neighboring precincts?
  3. Lastly, I would like to know if this is now the SCC/Community workflow; that SCC will make (or be told to make) programmatic and policy changes and then present these changes to the CAB as a fait accompli?  I’m trying to understand whether or not the members of the CAB are partners that are consulted and engaged, or if the SCC CAB is simply a forum for SCC to announce changes, milestones etc.

Our block association (HNBA.org) looks forward to hearing more about these issues.
best,
Shawn Hill

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East Harlem Diversion Center

The city touted a new initiative to divert mental health crisis incidents to an East Harlem Diversion Center on East 116th Street as far back as 2014. By 2018, when Project Renewal acquired a lease for the new facility, the city committed to investing $9.5 million annually to serve about 2,400 people each year at the centers.

The centers were to be open at all hours and staff will not be allowed to turn away anybody brought in by police. At the same time, people brought to the centers must consent to receive services such as health care and social services. The centers would not be used as homeless shelters and the maximum stay allowed is 10 days depending on a person’s needs.

According to The City, Mayor de Blasio last week quietly changed the name of ThriveNYC — the heavily criticized $1 billion mental health program spearheaded by the city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray — to the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health. The City also reports that the Diversion Center on 116th Street has served only 45 people since finally opening in November — coming out to $1.1 million per visit so far. 

To read the scathing report on the project, see:

https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/5/9/22426250/thrive-nyc-nypd-diversion-centers-for-mentally-ill-sit-empty

Gospel at the Apollo

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