A NYC program is offering mental health benefits to everyone… except for those who arguably need it the most: our first responders.

Thrive NYC is a billion dollar mental health program with an annual budget of $250 million. It’s spearheaded by Chirlane McCray, the wife and “Co-Mayor” as he likes to call her, of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Bill de Blasio with his family in 2012. (Wikipedia)

 

During a city council hearing earlier this year, the program was chastised by members for its slow response time and failure to treat the city’s homeless population. Queens City Councilman Robert Holden has stated “I like the fact that money is going to mental health, but when they (Thrive NYC) say we’re seeing benefit in all areas, I don’t see it everywhere,” he said. “I’m not sure anybody does.”

In spite of ballooning costs, Thrive NYC’s budget was quietly raised for fiscal year 2019 from $225 million to $250 Million. From 2016 through 2019 the Thrive budget was $850 Million, but costs are now closer to the $1 Billion mark. Record keeping seems also not to be a strong point for the program despite a $2 Million line item to cover 21 office staffers. For example, the program dispersed almost 200,000 Naloxone kits, a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, between mid-2016 and late-2018, but has no data how they were used to gauge effectiveness.

NYPD officers need help… now. (Adobe Stock)

 

You would think such a well-funded organization who has been ripped apart by city council for lack of results would jump to be part of something like the epidemic of first responder suicides.

You would think.

NYC Councilman, Joe Borelli of Staten Island, who is a staunch supporter of first responders, had set up a mental health event to train police and other first responders on how to recognize the subtle signs of mental health struggles and depression. He was approached by the group Blue Lives Matter NYC months prior in efforts to arrange the event and per Councilman Borelli, “Thrive jumped at the chance to take part”, that is until Thrive NYC’s Deputy Director Sarah Solon saw the flyer.

At first Thrive’s director attempted to weigh its clout to have the Blue Lives Matter NYC logo removed from the flyer, but when that request was denied by the Councilman’s Chief of staff, Thrive’s deputy director then pulled its support and counselors from the event.

 

This move occurred the same day that the 9th NYPD police officer succumbed to their battle with depression, killing themselves in their home in Queens. The City of New York on all levels have responded with lip service on the crisis facing law enforcement in regards to suicide, but here we have a taxpayer-funded organization whose mission is to address just this, but would rather bow out having the event cancelled then to work with an organization like Blue Lives Matter NYC.

What message is this sending to our law enforcement and first responder community? They (NYC leadership) often preach on how we need to work together, understand one another, place ourselves in others shoes, but when Thrive NYC, again, who is spearheaded by Mayor de Blasio’s wife, has the chance to lead by example and work for the greater good of saving police officer lives, they pull all support, draw a line, and take their ball home. If this is the leadership and mission that $1 Billion buys, New York City should ask for their money back.

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The message that their political statement, and petty gamesmanship is worth more than a NYC Police officer’s life was received loud and clear throughout the first responder community.

What even makes these wounds more so is the fact that Thrive NYC’s deputy director stated to the NY Post that, “Thrive remains committed to work with … Borelli’s office to bring mental health first aid to first responders. If he wants to organize a dedicated and private training, we are ready to be there.”

So in reality, they are ready willing and able to assist with this crisis, but just not with those guys (Blue Lives Matter NYC). How does a NYC taxpayer funded organization get to pick and choose who and how someone gets their mental health services? Truly disgraceful.

 

After personally speaking with Councilman Joe Borelli, whom I consider a friend, he is truly dismayed by the Thrive NYC’s decisions which ultimately caused him to postpone this much needed event.

Councilman Borelli informs me they will be having a candlelight vigil at City Hall on Monday August 19thto bring awareness to first responder suicides, and states that numerous organizations and hospital networks have reached out to him to supply counselors to fill the void left by Thrive NYC’s pettiness.

“This event will go on” Councilman Joe Borelli stated, “Just at a later date, these guys (first responders) deserve our help and support.”

 

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