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Mental health initiative ThriveNYC shows off program amidst spending scrutiny

NEW YORK — City mental health initiative ThriveNYC has come under heavy scrutiny in recent weeks for being on pace to spend about a billion dollars over five years— with little available to track exactly how the money is spent.

Now the pet project of city First Lady Chirlane McCray is explaining more about where a tiny fraction of the money is going. It spent about $2 million over the last 2.5 years to help 884 people find supportive services before they ended up at the hospital, or under arrest.

The program is a joint innovative between between Thrive and the NYPD, where two police officers and a behavior health worker reach out to someone who has shown some violent tendencies and may be on the verge of a crisis.

The goal is to link them up with mental health services, drug treatment or housing to prevent a more violent encounter down the line.

“It is about acting early,” Thrive’s director said.

It’s not a 911 response, it’s a proactive intervention to try and avert crisis.

There is a 24/7 triage call center where police and health records can be pulled to support five Co-Response teams in the field. The plan is to add more response teams in the coming months. Referrals to the program come from other service providers in the city and police officers on the street.

However, given the recent scrutiny over Thrive, touting the program was just as much about trying to show money is being spent well— as it was about mental health.

“We need to do a better job communicating what we’re doing,” said the Thrive director. “A lot of programs were not necessarily branded as ThriveNYC, but people see and appreciate many of our program initiatives throughout the city, but don’t know the connection to Thrive.”

Councilwoman Diana Ayala chairs the Committee on Mental Health, which will hold a hearing on budgeting next Tuesday. She is supportive of many Thrive initiatives, but looks forward to hearing more specific numbers.

“I think we understand things better when we qualify them, and I think absolutely they need to do that,” Ayala said.

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