April 19, 2024
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April 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

OHEL Hosts NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray

OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services warmly welcomed First Lady Chirlane McCray as she spoke to leaders of Jewish social service organizations in NYC about her ThriveNYC Mental Health Roadmap.

This roadmap, an ambitious 119-page report, outlines over 50 initiatives to deeply change the structure of mental health services in NYC.

ThriveNYC intends to change the culture and ways in which people access care so every New Yorker can receive the mental health services they need without shame or unnecessary barriers. Ms. McCray spoke of one of the initiatives, NYC Support, which offers 24/7 access to crisis counseling and referral via phone, web or text.

OHEL’s co-president, Moishe Hellman, flanked by Mel Zachter, OHEL’s co-president, along with OHEL board member Jay Kestenbaum and Asher Fogel, OHEL’s COO, spoke of the importance of combating stigma and thanked the first lady for her courage to speak publicly of her own family’s experience and her efforts to address this major health crisis in NYC. Hellman added that “OHEL has been at the forefront of breaking down various stigmas in the community, not the least in mental health, and we welcome being a partner in this new initiative of First Lady Chirlane McCray which we know will only further help to raise more awareness of mental illness, encourage more to seek help and strengthen the community by a greater sense of inclusivity.”

Yossi Simonds, a married individual from OHEL, spoke movingly about his own victories over mental illness, and how he recently received certification as a peer counselor, referred to by McCray as “the heroes of our mental health initiative.”

Deputy Mayor Buren, who is leading the ThriveNYC project, spoke of the need to understand the distinct needs of each community, and yet also wisely observed, “Whether it’s the South Bronx or it’s Borough Park, the needs are both the same and very different.” Deputy Mayor Buren and First Lady Chirlane McCray joined Dr. Gary Belkin, NYC DOHMH executive deputy commissioner for mental hygiene, in answering questions from the audience about the needs of the elderly and better ways to fund care.

They also spoke of a new Mental Health Services Corps, which will be a cadre of 4,000 trained, city-sponsored mental health professionals who will work out of community and senior centers, after-school programs and other under-served areas to bring mental health services to where it is needed most.

The first lady and the deputy mayor concluded the standing room-only meeting with a promise that we will come back at least once a year to meet together again, to share progress and hear suggestions, emphasizing that ThriveNYC is a living document and a work in progress.

Since 1969, OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services has served as a dependable haven of individual and family support, helping people of all ages effectively manage disability, surmount everyday challenges, heal from trauma and manage with strength and dignity during times of crises.

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