Disability Community Expresses Outrage at the Murder of Jordan Neely

May 11, by Harvey Rosenthal, Luke Sikinyi, Ruth Lowenkron, and the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (Reposted from NYAPRS ENews)

Calls on the City and the State to Appropriately Serve New Yorkers Living with Mental Health Conditions

Jordan Neely’s heartbreaking, haunting, and cruel murder was a direct result of our City’s and our State’s systemic failures to provide a comprehensive continuum of services and support with appropriate follow up and accountability.

There is ample evidence that Mr. Neely had contact with a broad array of shelters, clinics, hospitals, street outreach teams, case management programs, and criminal justice and social service organizations. Our systems had more than a decade to meaningfully engage Mr. Neely and to provide him with sustained follow-up services and supports. Yet, at the time of his death, he had been identified by the City as one of the “top 50” homeless individuals most urgently in need of assistance and treatment.

We often speak of our goal to provide a “no wrong door” system of mental health access. Mr. Neely, in fact, entered our system through several doors, but we failed him each time. We are too quick to label people as “hard to serve” and “non-compliant,” rather than acknowledge our system’s inability to effectively engage and support people in profound need with appropriate, effective, and voluntary measures.

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Neely was riding the subway, complaining of hunger and thirst, saying that he was tired — that he didn’t care if he went to prison and that “it doesn’t even matter if I died.”

Mr. Neely’s desperate sense of despair may have been disturbing or even frightening to some, but it cannot be used to justify being choked to death on the floor of a City subway car. Tragically, he met all four of the qualifications to be routinely and unjustifiably considered to be dangerous: he was a Black, male, homeless individual living with major mental health challenges.

We have to answer the question posed on social media – does anyone think there is a Black man alive in this country who could walk up to a white person, in public, choke him to death in full view of other passengers and have it captured on video, and then just walk away after a brief chat with the police?

We must take action to respond to mental health crises with a public health rather than a criminalizing response that only drives people away and that fails to recognize that people with major mental health and trauma-related challenges are typically 11 times more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence and no more likely to be violent than those who do not have such challenges.

This is also the time to assign accountability to City and State leaders whose policies promote a coercive approach that drives away people in need of what are currently vastly underfunded, overwhelmed and understaffed community services, and that turn the public against the disability community.

What we need is a system that succeeds in engaging people like Jordan Neely, that remains involved, and that identifies an agency to take the primary role in coordinating each individual’s services and resources to promote their safety and recovery. What we must not tolerate are policies such as those recently introduced by Mayor Eric Adams that promote detention by police of individuals who are merely perceived to have a mental health diagnosis, even when they do not present a danger to themselves or others.

We owe it to the memory of Jordan Neely to do all we possibly can to support people in similar circumstances, to show that it indeed matters if they live or die.

  • Advocates for Justice
  • Association for Community Living, Inc
  • Baltic Street AEH, Inc
  • Bronx Independent Living Services
  • Cardozo Bet Tzedek Legal Services
  • Coalition for Behavioral Health
  • Center for Disability Rights
  • Community Access
  • Daniels Law Coalition
  • 504 Democratic Club
  • Families Together in New York State
  • Finger Lakes Independence Center
  • Fountain House
  • Hands Across Long Island
  • Harlem Independent Living Center
  • Independent Living, Inc
  • Mental Health Association of Nassau County
  • Mental Health Association of New York State
  • Mental Health Empowerment Project
  • Mobilization for Justice
  • New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services
  • New York Association on Independent Living
  • New York City Justice Peer Initiative
  • New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
  • New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare
  • Northern Regional Center for Independent Living
  • Police Reform Organizing Project
  • Queens Defenders
  • Regional Center for Independent Living
  • Resource Center for Accessible Living
  • Restoration Society, Inc
  • Seat At The Table Campaign
  • Southern Tier Independence Center
  • Staten Island Center for Independent Living
  • Supportive Housing Network of New York
  • Taconic Resources for Independence, Inc
  • Treatment Not Jail Coalition
  • Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project

Add blog content

May is Mental Health Month Proclamation

May 1, 2023 (The White House)

 During National Mental Health Awareness Month, we honor the absolute courage of the tens of millions of Americans living with mental health conditions, and we celebrate the loved ones and mental health professionals who are there for them every day.  Treatment works, and there is no shame in seeking it.  Together, we will keep fighting to get everyone access to the care they need to live full and happy lives.

     As Americans, we have a duty of care to reach out to one another and leave no one behind.  But so many of our friends, colleagues, and loved ones are battling mental health challenges, made worse by the isolation and trauma of COVID-19.  Two in five adults report anxiety and depression, and two in five teens describe experiencing persistent sadness or hopelessness, exacerbated by social media, bullying, and gun violence.  Drug overdose deaths are also near record highs, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people.  It does not have to be this way.

     As President, I released a new national strategy to transform how we understand and address mental health in America — supporting and training more providers, improving access to care, and building healthy environments that promote mental health.  This work is a core pillar of the Unity Agenda that I outlined in my first State of the Union Address.  Mental health is health; it affects everyone, regardless of race, gender, politics, or income.  Promoting it is one of the big things that we can all agree to do together as Americans to make our country stronger.

  The United States has long faced a shortage of mental health providers.  It takes an average of 11 years to get treatment after the onset of symptoms, and less than half of Americans struggling with mental illness ever receive the care they need.  This is especially true in rural and other underserved communities.  That is why the American Rescue Plan made our Nation’s biggest-ever investment in mental health and substance use programs — recruiting, training, and supporting more providers at the State and local levels, including in our schools.  Last year, when we passed the Nation’s first major gun safety law in nearly 30 years, it contained measures to further increase the number of school psychologists and counselors available to our kids, to make it easier for schools to use Medicaid to deliver mental health care, and to expand the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics that deliver 24/7 care.  Additionally, we have invested in training more first responders to address mental health-related issues.

     Last year, we also launched 988 as the Nation’s new Suicide and Crisis Lifeline so anyone in the midst of a crisis can receive life-saving confidential help right away.  We added dedicated counselors trained in supporting LGBTQI+ youth to the 988 lifeline, and for veterans, we made it easier to reach the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988 and pressing 1 to reach trained crisis responders.  We created a separate Maternal Mental Health Hotline to help mothers navigate mental health issues like postpartum depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, which affect one in five pregnant and postpartum women.  Far too often, these disorders go undiagnosed and untreated, so we have invested in programs that bolster screening and treatment and call specific attention to them during Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, which we also observe this month.  Finally, we have passed historic laws that further require insurers to cover mental health care as they would any other kind of treatment, that lower prescription drug costs, and that expand health coverage generally.  I am proud that we have seen historic health insurance coverage gains since I took office.

     At the same time, we are fighting to expand access to prevention and treatment for substance use disorders, including opioid use disorder, which have devastated so many families and communities.  This includes expanding access to mental health and substance use treatment in jails and prisons and during reentry to support people when they return home.  And last year, we passed a law making it easier for doctors to prescribe effective addiction treatment.  Anyone suffering should know they are not alone:  We believe in recovery, and we celebrate the courage of the 23 million Americans who have come so far down that road.

     We are also expanding mental health care for service members and veterans, to better honor our sacred obligation to the troops we send into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they are home.  We cannot keep losing 17 veterans a day to the silent scourge of suicide.  My Administration is increasing access to mental health care, hiring more mental health professionals, and investing in programs that recruit veterans to help one another get the support they need.  And we are working to expand rental assistance and job placement programs to help smooth veterans’ return to civilian life.  I have also signed laws extending counseling, benefits, and other mental health resources to first responders and their families to help them heal from the trauma that they or their loved ones faced on the job.

     There is much more to do.  For one, we must finally hold social media companies accountable for the experiments they are running on our children for profit.  I have called on the Congress to limit the personal data that tech companies collect, to ban targeted advertising directed at minors, and to require social media platforms to put health and safety first, especially for kids.

     We all have a role to play in ending the stigma around mental health issues.  It starts by showing compassion, so everyone feels free to ask for help.  If you are facing a crisis, dial 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.  If you are a new or expecting mother, you can call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS for confidential professional advice.  If you are feeling overwhelmed or just need someone to talk to, ask your healthcare provider, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP, or visit http://www.FindSupport.gov.  If someone you know is going through a tough time, reach out and tell them you are there for them.  We are all in this together.

     NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2023 as National Mental Health Awareness Month.  I call upon citizens, government agencies, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and other groups to join in activities and take action to strengthen the mental health of our communities and our Nation.

     IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-eighth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-seventh.

                             JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

(Read the Proclamation on the White House website)

Random Acts by a Peer Specialist Part 8

April 28, 2023 By Howard Diamond

Random Acts By a Peer Specialist Part 8  by HOWARD DIAMOND

(This is part 8 of an ongoing series. To view from the beginning, click here.)

Three’s a Crowd, Three Strikes You’re Out, Three Incidents in Three Paragraphs Too Many Threes

Tuesday May 21 was not a good day for several people in Lake Town. Ruth Haines received two prank calls. Basically the message was the same and she was upset. These calls have been angering Ruth for several months and is often a topic of conversation in her therapy sessions with Jane Frederick. For fifteen months Ruth has been getting therapy from Jane. It all started that cold February day after he was referred to by Peer Specialist Holly Stephens.

Also, Holly’s Supervisor Taylor Thompson was almost in a horrific car accident on the way home from work. Timing is everything, as Taylor past Greene Avenue, then passing Wicks Road, Clark Street, Elm Street and Front Street. Suddenly, an auto speeding on Wicks Road turned onto Clark and plowed into another vehicle which was a third and a fourth. Fortunately, Taylor was two blocks ahead of the accident, but he was shaken, nevertheless.

Thirdly, after work there was a police report filed on Tuesday at about 6:30 pm. A person was found, bloody and semiconscious. The man looked familiar to a witness who identified him as Steve Washington and phoned the police plus an ambulance to take Steve to the hospital. After the cops arrived, she said she was up the block and saw most of what transpired. Since the couple of attackers were wearing masks, no one was able to name either one. Unfortunately, Officer Grey was off this week and won’t return until after Memorial Day. The next day, both Taylor and Holly visited Steve in the hospital. His right arm and hand were broken, plus he was black and blue almost everywhere. In addition, he was conscious and pretty much awake plus talking up a storm.

Summer is around the corner, fall is not far behind 

When Officer Grey returned to work, he re-interviewed Steve several times over the next week. Steve tried to give a description of his assailants, but his information was not the same. This is probably due to his concussion and the hope is his symptoms will lessen and his recall will return. Holly was informed by Steve’s issues and followed up, when necessary and along with a new temporary assistant secretary, named Mary Blackman. 

Mary was taken from the local temp agency, but she did not look the part. Her blond hair was long and stringy. Her blue dress had a slight tear around her left shoulder and her shoes were not polished. In addition, Mary had not worked in over eight months, but her office skills were superb, except for filing. She was five foot and maybe 100 pounds, but what a loud, dirty mouth, heard emanating everywhere around the office, including the bathrooms. After her first day, Taylor gave Mary instructions to cut her hair, wear no holy dresses, polish her shoes and to stop yelling profanities.

June brought summer for Lake Town. After a month, Steve was released from the hospital, but had a nurse and a physical therapist come to his four room apartment four days a week. Even though Steve did not like the arrangement, he enjoyed the  extra attention. On alternate days, Holly would visit Steve and bring what he needed to recover. Also, some of Steve’s bruises and his bloody face are healing, but too slowly for Steve. However, his right arm will still be in a cast for three to four weeks and then his doctors will decide what to do next.

Ruth and Jane are still doing therapy once weekly. Although Ruth has steadily progressed, she has no memories of having a child or being raped. Jane is saying that there is no way to tell when her memories will return. According to Ruth’s plan, she might be working two days a week shortly after Labor Day in the Cafe in town. Near the end of August, Holly will help Ruth figure out a budget, so she does lose her disability benefits  (SSDI ) or her medical insurance (MEDICARE AND MEDICAID).


Downtown Lake Town was getting ready for a parade. The committee had many volunteers, including Ruth, Holly, Taylor and Steve.  Each lamppost was adorned with red, white and blue balloons, with Taylor helping to hang them. Along the parade route, Ruth plastered signs everywhere possible. At the end of the way, Holly assisted in decorating the waterfront area with red, white and blue streamers. While Steve ordered food and drinks from an assortment of local delis, cafes and restaurants plus purchasing water from the supermarkets.

Also, Marty from Generations booked the entertainment. Meanwhile, on the downtown streets, there was a group of suspicious characters looming in the shadows, especially the Mystery Man, who was spotted twice. Most evenings the vagrants would remove signs, take balloons off the lampposts and do other nefarious activities. These nights Officer Grey and the police staff had their collective hands full. Unfortunately the cops could not catch anyone.

It was a glorious day on July 4 with clear blue skies, temperature around 80 and little or no wind. At around 4pm, the parade began with crowds estimated at about 6,000 men, women and children. A group under the bandshell by the waterfront was playing 60s and 70s plus a selection of patriotic songs for people waiting there for the parade. When the parade arrived, Holly and Steve were handing out free water bottles to everyone. As people entered the waterfront area, volunteers including Ruth and Taylor handed out programs for the evening festivities that was scheduled to begin at 7pm and to end with fireworks at 9pm over the lake. 

In the crowd were Marty from Generations and Ruth ‘s therapist, Jane Frederick. Promptly at 7pm, the program started with Lake Town Mayor welcoming everyone and introducing the emcee for the evening. Then, the people stood for the National Anthem and the slate continued. There was a magic show, a comedienne, a few musical acts. At 8:45 everything ended, the fireworks were still fifteen minutes away, so the crowd rested. 

At 9:05pm, the emcee introduced the fireworks with a couple of bad jokes. The lights were turned down and the fireworks started over the lake. About halfway through the presentation at 9:15 bangs were heard in the crowd. Gunshots were heard everywhere and when the lights were in effect, sixteen people were hurt, three were sent to the hospital. One was Ruth. A message was left on Officer Grey’s at 5pm phone stating, BEWARE THE STREETS,  YOU’VE BEEN WARNED, BEWARE THE STREETS“.

At the hospital, it was determined that Ruth had a gunshot lodged in her leg and lost some blood. Emergency surgery was necessary. Taylor was notified, he informed Holly and they agreed to meet at the hospital. At the Lake, Officer Grey and the police staff had many things to do. They had to disperse the crowd and try to investigate the gunshots. Two hours later, it just hit midnight, Ruth was still in surgery, Holly and Taylor were waiting for results. Shortly afterwards Marty arrived to lend his support.

Eventually at around 4am a doctor came by the sleeping trio. Dr. Rich Sanders, neurologist, gently woke them and informed them that Ruth had gone through several hours of successful surgery of her right leg where part of a bullet was removed along with several other fragments. The bullet parts are now bagged for safekeeping until an officer can pick them up. Also, a piece was removed from her head. Currently, she is sedated and asleep. No visitors are allowed

until 9am in the neurosurgical unit. Her healing will take a few weeks, but her discharge will possibly be several days from now. The trio all decided to leave.

For Ruth she was at, “the wrong place at the wrong time“.

The mysteries will continue in Part Nine of Random Act of a Peer Specialist in about a month from now. Can hardly wait. What about everyone else? See you in the NewsBlogs and Newsletters. 
Howard Diamond is a Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island.

(To view the whole series from Part 1 through Part 8, click here.)

NYC Community First

April 25, 2023 (Reposted from NYAPRS ENews)

man and woman eating on the street
Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

NYAPRS Note: At last week’s NYAPRS Executive Seminar, representatives from Fountain House elaborated on several innovations that have been added to their historic model in recent years. One of them is detailed in the article below: a Times Square Recharge Station that is a key element in the NYC Community First program that was launched by the Center for Court Innovation, Midtown Community Court, Breaking Ground and NYAPRS members Fountain House and CUCS: Center Urban Community Services in 2021.

The program is based on a model that “focuses on building trusting relationships and meeting community members ‘where they’re at’ ‘before making linkages to services provided by community-based organizations,” in stark contrast to a model launched by City government last year that relies on police facilitation of involuntary hospitalizations. This approach begins with the provision of warm meal, clothing and blankets, as well as the opportunity to recharge mobile phones.

Congratulations to Fountain House, Breaking Ground, CUCS and NYC government for this powerful partnership that is successfully and voluntarily engaging and supporting people with major mental health and other challenges who are facing housing and food insecurity and social isolation.

See the City Limits column on the program written by Lauren Curatolo, Tom Harris, Brenda Rosen and now Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Dr. Ashwin Vasan for some background.

Recharge Station

In January 2021, Fountain House, Times Square Alliance, Midtown Community Court, and Breaking Ground came together to build Community First—a pilot project in Midtown Manhattan that uses a holistic approach. In this program, community navigators build trust with individuals, by first helping them meet their immediate needs—whether that’s a warm meal, clothing, blankets, etc.—and then connecting them with mental health services, housing resources, and medical treatment.

In July 2021, Fountain House, in an effort to build relationships and trust…. partnered with Project for Public Spaces to build a Recharge Station. Having worked on past place-based social service provision projects, we worked with the local fabricators to design and build a kiosk to be staffed by a Fountain House Social Practitioner and Fountain House members completing Transitional and Supportive Employment placements. As Fountain House’s incredible Social Practitioner Chloe Murtagh so aptly summarized it, “Project for Public Spaces helped Fountain House create a space to connect and experiment with new kinds of community building.”

Today, the kiosk serves people in need, who are experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and loneliness. Visitors and residents are also welcome. It’s a location all can use, which is crucial for building trust for those who are wary, have felt let down by service “systems,” or are afraid of being stigmatized. Functionally, the Recharge Station is designed to facilitate natural ventilation, keeping the inside cool in the summer. In addition, the kiosk was designed to have sufficient storage for the chairs and tables that expand the footprint of this safe haven during the day. 

As relationships are built, needs are shared. On a typical day, social practitioners work with the Community First Outreach team to provide help including obtaining ID cards, Social Security cards, benefits, doctor’s appointments, housing applications, and more. If individuals have mental health needs, they are also connected directly with Fountain House membership and psychiatric care. 

From December 2021 to May 2022, there were over 750 interactions with the target community, almost 500 of these being repeat interactions. In addition, there were more than 1,500 free cups of coffee given out, providing a token of comfort day after day. Based on this success, Fountain House is exploring the possibility of securing funding to expand the kiosk concept to more locations.



Community First: A Unique Approach to Street Outreach

Community navigators build trusting relationships with people in and around Times Square to connect them with mental health services, help with housing, and medical treatment.

Meaningfully Engaging Individuals

The coronavirus pandemic caused a significant increase in the number of people who are housing insecure and living with severe mental health issues and/or substance use addictions gathering in and immediately around the Times Square area. Whether it is a warm meal or a pair of shoes, our team of Community Navigators help people address immediate needs and then work towards linking them to longer term housing, services, and support. With programs like Community First, law enforcement no longer has to be the only response to mental health crises and homelessness.

The Community Navigator team heads out into the neighborhood with clothing, socks, PPE, blankets, food, and other materials to begin engaging individuals in conversations around their needs. These may be people who are experiencing homelessness, staying in a local shelter, or are in need of mental health services, harm reduction services, benefits connections, medical treatment, or any other number of services. Community Navigators also link people with services that may be difficult, if not impossible, for them to access like bathroom facilities, general wellness support, haircuts, showers, and laundry services.

I remember when I first met you all. You gave me a blanket when I was cold. — Participant

The Community First model differs from existing street outreach initiatives because it focuses on building trusting relationships and meeting community members “where they’re at” before making linkages to more meaningful and significant services provided by community-based organizations in the Midtown Community Court’s network. The time spent building trust with community members in need results in those individuals confidently engaging in critical services with greater chances for long-term success.

Our program has made a big impact since launching in 2021—we’ve engaged 466 individuals and completed over 1,045 interactions.

Meeting the Needs of the Community

Times Square Alliance approached the Center for Court Innovation, Midtown Community Court, Breaking Ground, and Fountain House during the height of the pandemic to ask for help designing and piloting an initiative to connect this population to the critical services they may need. 

The end result is Community First—a holistic community response. We felt it was important not to employ or rely upon traditional policing to solve the community concerns that emerged in and around Times Square during the pandemic, and to implement an intervention that prevents people from ending up in the justice system. 

I once lived out of a bag. With that being said, I really understand how things can change for the worst. At some point we all need a little helping hand. The people, the conditions, the circumstances, and boundaries that we respect is what sets this navigators program apart from the other outreach organization. — HARRY GLENN, Community Engagement Coordinator and Community Navigator

Times Square Today interviews Midtown Community Court’s project director, Lauren Curatolo, as she discusses the mission and accomplishments of Community First, as well as the role that Navigators play to fill the gaps in connecting community members with various needed services.

How It Works

After six months of running as a pilot, Community First formally launched in July 2021 with support from Times Square Alliance and New York City’s Department of Homeless Services. Our teams of Community Navigators identify with the lived and shared experiences of the community members they work with.

In partnership with city agencies and community-based partners, including but not limited to, Fountain House, Breaking Ground, and CUCS: Center for Urban Community Services, Community First takes a client-centered, trauma-informed approach, protecting the agency of the client when creating service plans and identifying goals and next steps. 

Community First’s team of Community Navigators operates from 40th Street to 53rd Street, 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue, including Restaurant Row.


NYC Council Mental Health Roadmap 

April 25, 2023 (Reposted from NYAPRS ENews)

NYAPRS Note: Yesterday, the New York City Council released its Mental Health Roadmap promoting “a focus on increased prevention services, especially at the community level, addressing the mental health workforce shortage, confronting the harmful intersections between mental health and the criminal justice system, and increasing public awareness about available programs while improving interagency coordination to enhance the continuity of care”

We are very pleased to see that our friends at Correct Crisis Intervention Today, Community Access, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and National Alliance on Mental Illness–New York City have provided input to the plan. We are also very pleased to see proposed legislation requiring the Adams administration to submit data on the implementation of its controversial policy clarifying when and how to involuntarily remove mentally ill people from public spaces. NYAPRS is vigorously opposed to this policy and strongly support the requirement for public reporting and Council oversight.

As the Daily News reports, “locking down those expenditures will likely prove challenging. Indeed, Mayor Adams and the City Council have clashed in recent days over current budget negotiations, with the mayor contending the city has less money at its disposal than Council numbers crunchers have projected.” Asked how the Council is prepared to field pushback from the administration, the Speaker played coy Monday, saying simply that she isn’t “looking forward to push back.” “We’re going to deal with it,” she said. “We’re going to be as forceful as we are with, you know, with anything that is a vital and critical issue to all New Yorkers.”      

See the full plan at https://council.nyc.gov/mental-health-road-map/.  Here’s an article in Crain’s this morning, formatted by NYAPRS to emphasize certain provisions.

We’ll have more analysis in the coming days.

City Council Unveils Mental Health Roadmap Emphasizing Prevention, Workforce Growth (formatting by NYAPRS)

By Jacqueline Neber Crain’s Health Pulse   April 25, 2023

The City Council on Monday revealed its mental health roadmap, which emphasizes increasing funding around prevention services in an effort to help the city combat its growing mental health crisis.

The roadmap has four pillars:

  1. prioritizing preventive and supportive services,
  2. addressing the workforce shortage,
  3. looking into mental health’s intersection with the criminal justice system and
  4. bolstering interagency communication around mental health initiatives.

Each pillar has city, state and federal actions tied to it.

“This crisis has been shaped by years of neglect, stigma and inadequate public policy. For too long this city has not focused efforts where they are most needed to address mental health,” Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said at a press conference Tuesday. “The city has over-relied on emergency and crisis responses. This approach has been expensive, dehumanizing and, in too many cases, deadly.”

The council released this roadmap about seven weeks after Mayor Eric Adams unveiled the second phase of his own mental health plan, which focuses on how the city can expand services for New Yorkers with severe mental illness.

His second phase, revealed in March, follows a controversial first phase that garnered the criticism of community organizations and advocates. That first plan, announced in November, includes a directive emphasizing the authority of law enforcement officers, outreach workers and mental health professionals to involuntarily transport New Yorkers who seem to be unable to meet their basic needs to hospitals.

Back in November, Speaker Adams called on the mayor’s office to produce concrete details about his plan. By contrast, the council’s roadmap includes more than three dozen action items at the city, state and federal level.


To provide more preventive and supportive services, the council will consider legislation by Majority Leader Keith Powers that would expand the number of crisis respite centers by at least two per borough. There are currently four throughout the boroughs that provide a community-based alternative to hospitalization.

The council will also consider legislation to expand Clubhouse community centers, where New Yorkers can access resources, advocate for adequate funding for school-based mental health services, encourage City Hall to earmark $5 million for the Mental Health Continuum partnership and advocate for adequate funding for youth mental health programs. According to the roadmap, the council will also provide mental health first aid training for staff.

Meanwhile, the council said it will call on the state and Gov. Kathy Hochul to make sure 150 state-run psychiatric hospital beds come back into service–and increase the fines for hospitals that don’t comply to up to $2,000 per day.

The preventive pillar also focuses on housing as a way to mitigate mental health concerns. To that end, the roadmap says, the council will call on the Adams administration to

  • revamp its 15/15 supportive housing plan, which in 2015 set out to develop 15,000 units of supportive housing in the next 15 years, and put an additional $45 million toward it.
  • On the state side, Powers will put forward a resolution to have the state and the city reintroduce a NY/NY Supportive Housing Program to increase development and contracting.


A quarter of the roadmap focuses on strengthening and retaining the mental health workforce, which is currently in crisis, along with the hospital, nursing home and direct support professional workforces.

To address the crisis, the council will advocate for the fiscal 2024 city budget to

  • include funding for nonprofit and community-based organizations, as well as to
  • fund and establish a social work fellows program at one or more City University of New York schools.
  • And the council will continue to advocate for pay parity for mental health workers.
  • The council plans to call on the city and the state to increase Medicaid reimbursements for mental health services in order to expand access for families with middle incomes.


At the press conference, Speaker Adams emphasized the city’s responsibility to ensure the criminal justice system is not a stand-in for mental health care. When about half of the people on Rikers Island have a mental health problem, “quite frankly, we have failed,” she said. According to the roadmap, Rikers is now counted as one of the three largest providers of psychiatric care in the U.S., and about 12% of New York’s prison population has a severe mental illness.

To address this, the council will consider legislation introduced by Council member Linda Lee, chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction, that would

  • require the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health to report on implementation of the involuntary transport directive.

The council will also advocate for the city budget to

  • include adequate funding for street outreach teams as well as the expansion of the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s intensive mobile treatment teams and assertive community treatment teams.
  • Furthermore, the council will push for the budget to include $12.8 million for 380 units of justice-involved supportive housing.


To facilitate communication between city agencies, the council will consider legislation from Council member Eric Bottcher that would require the Adams administration to

  • conduct outreach on mental health services provided by NYC Care and
  • (approve) legislation from Lee that would create an outpatient mental health services location data set for New Yorkers.

To create the roadmap, the council worked with stakeholders from community organizations including Correct Crisis Intervention TodayCommunity AccessNew York Lawyers for the Public Interest and National Alliance on Mental Illness–New York City.

Matt Kudish, the executive director of NAMI-NYC, said he is encouraged by the roadmap and the collaboration that created it. “They were open to hearing our thoughts about things that needed to be either phrased or framed differently, or added entirely,” he said.

The council’s proposed legislation will be discussed at a May 4 hearing by the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction.

ACEs Awareness Day

April 24, 2023 – A special note from  Audrey Erazo-Trivino

As the new Associate Commissioner for the Office of Prevention and Health Initiatives within the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, I am extremely proud of the work that the NYS Office of Mental Health engages in daily to bring awareness about ACEs and to combat its negative effects for all New Yorkers.  The Prevention office helps in this effort by advancing new mental health policy and programs emphasizing widespread prevention efforts with a foundational goal of promoting mental health equity.  This office supports initiatives that directly assist in mitigating the effects of trauma and as such, we are staunchly committed in championing the understanding of trauma, the use of trauma-informed principles, and most importantly the availability of trauma-informed care throughout the state.  Ultimately, these initiatives work towards the reduction of risk factors and the enhancement of protective factors for individuals, families, and communities.

ACEs Awareness Day, April 24, 2023

Social Media Toolkit

Advocates and legislators are gathering at the Capitol on Monday, April 24th to educate and raise awareness about prevention and mitigation of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and increasing Protective Factors, andPositive Childhood Experiences (PCEs).

We are pleased that the New York State Office of Mental Health has provided an award of $9.5 million over five years for the establishment of a Trauma-Informed Network and Resource Center to advance understanding of trauma, the use of trauma-informed principles, and the availability of trauma-informed care throughout the state in the Executive Budget proposal. The NYS Trauma-Informed Coalition and other partners are eager to see these provisions included in the final Enacted Budget.

Although ACEs Awareness Day partially highlights the impact and prevalence of childhood adversity, our focus remains on emphasizing the importance of preventing ACEs from ever occurring. The work of Prevent Child Abuse New York (PCANY) is centered in prevention and, in particular, in bolstering programs that address problems before they ever occur. This is referred to as “primary prevention.” 

Protective factors at any age highlight the power of connection, of moving from isolation to community, of building resilience through each proactive step. 

We thus encourage everyone to engage with at least one of the resources provided , to foster community, connection, and resilience in the people we serve and in ourselves as well.

Here are some tools that can help you do that:

Listen By Using Effective Listening by Howard Diamond

April 18, 2023 – (Submitted by Howard Diamond)

Group of people over vintage colors background smiling with hand over ear listening an hearing to rumor or gossip. Deafness concept.

Can we hear each other? Are we paying attention? What can we do differently to listen? Do we listen? Do we effectively listen? Do we want to know about listening and effective listening? Do we want to know the differences between each? Too many questions. Everyone, please calm down and they might be answered. Listen and stay tuned it is coming next in this article. 

Experts say, we hear everything, except those who are deaf, but what we listen to, can be the difference between night and day. Most of us pick and choose what we want to, sometimes based on several factors. We tend to listen within conversations that are more engaging or a dialogue of what we want. Other times, to people that are interesting or look marvelous. Also, we listen to individual things that our partner wants. Even then, there are occasions when our brain drifts into another thought. Before we know it, we drift from person to person, not really listening to anyone.

Often Certified Peer Specialists like myself use “Effective Listening” techniques when working with many of our peers. Not only is this a good technique for Peers, but for everyone because we all need to listen better. Listening is to give one’s attention to a sound. According to Maryville University, there are basically four types of listening techniques:

  • DEEP LISTENING happens when we’re committed to understanding what the other person’s trying to say. This version helps to build trust and rapport and makes us feel comfortable with our thoughts and ideas.
  • FULL LISTENING involves paying the closest attention to what the speaker is really conveying. Primarily this is used in a classroom, when someone is trying to teach us how to complete task(s) and when discussing work projects with our professors and supervisors.
  • CRITICAL LISTENING incorporates systematic reasoning and careful thought to analyze a person’s talk and try to discern fact from opinion. This may occur when we have a personal agenda, such as political debates or a salesperson making a pitch.
  • THERAPEUTIC LISTENING means giving our friends, colleagues or our family members time to discuss their issues. This involves applying many nonverbal cues like nodding and maintaining eye contact. Also, we need to understand what they are feeling about their experiences and their situations.  

Effective listening is an active way to listen, and something we need to learn and undertake for personal growth. Continuously, we must focus our attention on the person(s) speaking along with their message. Also, we need to let the speaker know we understand what is being talked about. Some of these ways include, sustaining eye contact, when we are able to ask follow-up questions or comments, be attentive and engaged in this moment and never, never interrupt who is speaking.

The difference between listening and effective listening is that we know what we are listening for; there are cues that guide the questions we will ask. Peer Specialists and others try to help someone figure out their self-identity at the present time, what the person thinks would improve their life, and what they think is standing in the way of any or all of these goals. Self-image, goals and barriers are simple things to listen for actively.  

Sometimes, it can be difficult to effectively listen.  Often to try to get our own point across we tend to interrupt the other individual. This happens with advice, judgment, criticisms or comparative stories of our own, or even feeling the need to one-up the person.  Effective listening means there may be moments of silence. At that instance, silence is okay.  

Remember, the Peer Specialist role is to guide their peer into listening to their own inner truth with open, honest questions. These questions go by the old rules of journalism: who, what, where, when, and how…but why is never involved. Asking why can make other people defensive. However, honest, truthful questions mean that one doesn’t already know the answer. The person may feel their intelligence insulted by such questions. Be very careful, our role as a Peer Specialist is always to listen and not make the situation worse.

The next time anyone has a conversation with a friend, try using these techniques. It can be difficult but we all improve with practice! As Peer Specialists we try not to fix, save, advise, judge, or set the person straight. Instead we listen and ask honest, non-judgmental questions.  It is interesting how much people really appreciate it. Are all of us listening?

See you in the NewsBlogs and Newsletters. 

Howard Diamond is a New York State Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island.

Daniel’s Law – Shifting MH Crisis Response Away from Police

April 10, 2023 (Reposted from NYAPRS ENews)

grayscale portrait photo of man wearing helmet
Photo by Lauro Rocha on Pexels.com

‘Daniel’s Law’ Would Shift NY Response to Mental Crises away from Police

By Raga Justin | Times Union | April 10, 2023

The Legislature has included $10 million in proposed funding for a pilot program to shift away from police responses to mental health crises.

ALBANY — Daniel Prude was suffering a mental health crisis when he died during an encounter with the police in Rochester three years ago, spurring waves of protests in the upstate city and calls for statewide changes to law enforcement’s approach in similar situations.

Legislation that bears his name is seeking to do that. “Daniel’s Law” would empower mental health responders, rather than police officers, to respond to distress calls and approach people experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis. The law aims to reshape New York’s reliance on policing during emergency calls, a shift that comes in the wake of several highly publicized deaths alleged to involve police misconduct, including Prude’s.

State Sen. Samra Brouk, a Rochester Democrat who sponsored the bill in 2021, said that the legislation dovetails with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s own stated emphasis on mental health and public safety this year, which she said should help hasten its passage.

“This is really the moment,” Brouk said, pointing to Hochul’s proposed $1 billion investment in the state’s mental health system. “I think that the executive understands that what we’re doing isn’t working.”

Around $10 million in funding for a pilot program studying a statewide rollout of Daniel’s Law is part of the Senate’s budget, though a final spending plan is still unknown with budget negotiations ongoing in Albany. The pilot program would support community organizations and incentivize local governments to create more targeted response units for mental health crises; similar programs have been popping up in cities across the country, including New York City, over the past three years.

Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State Inc., said the state has a patchwork of similar services that vary county by county instead of a coordinated statewide system.

The crux of the issue, mental health advocates say, is looping in personnel who are trained to de-escalate situations without the use of force. Often, law enforcement officials who show up in uniform can unintentionally appear to pose a threat to someone who is in the midst of either a mental health or substance abuse crisis.

“In no other medical emergency do we expect people to communicate with someone with a gun,” Brouk said.

Brouk referenced the recent police shooting of a Bronx man who was experiencing a mental health crisis and was in possession of a knife when his father called a “311” nonemergency government services line for help with his son.

In Rochester, Prude, 41, had been visiting his brother’s family when he ran out of the house with few clothes on during a freezing night in March 2020. His brother Joe called 911, worried that Daniel — who struggled with suicidal thoughts and was thought to be in the middle of a psychotic episode — would hurt himself and told police as much.

Police who responded placed a “spit hood” over Daniel’s head and forcefully restrained him. He died one week later after suffering brain damage during the encounter. A medical examiner’s report ruled the death a homicide, partly from asphyxiation.

“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe Prude said during a press conference months after the incident.

The death kicked off local and statewide cries for less policing in similar situations, with Democratic legislators and advocates calling instead for a public health-based approach.

Retired Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox, who led the department for about two years beginning in 2015, has been a vocal supporter of the bill. At the start of his career in Albany, the city had a mobile crisis team in place to do almost exactly what Daniel’s Law would mandate, he said. But the program was subject to budget cuts and underfunding, Cox said.

Cox, who now works with a criminal justice reform organization called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, said that law enforcement has increasingly been tasked with responding to calls that aren’t in officers’ purview, including mental health and substance abuse emergencies.

“The simple fact of the matter is that it shouldn’t take a 911 call to solve a mental health issue,” Cox said. “And we need to have other people that are available to respond to that crisis.”

Police presence would still be likely in cases where a person in crisis could potentially have a weapon that would present a danger to themselves or others, Cox said. The law does not call for an across-the-board transition away from policing, he added, emphasizing that police and mental health responders would work collaboratively.

For example, if someone is threatening to take their own life but has a gun, Cox said both a police presence and people trained in mental health crises would need to respond, though the mental crisis responder might take the lead to de-escalate the situation.

Democrats, advocates push pilot for mental health emergency calls (timesunion.com)

(April 7, 2023) NYAPRS Note: The extended budget deadline allows for more time to push for changes to the behavioral health service system. Daniel’s Law represents a necessary and major shift in the way we respond to behavioral health emergencies, changing primary responders from police to healthcare experts and EMTs. We must pass the proposed Daniel’s Law Pilot with this year’s budget. You can join the push by emailing elected leaders to ask for their support here. See NY State Senator Samra Brouk and former Chief of The Albany Police Department Brendan Cox’s recent editorial on the need for non-police emergency response teams below.

Opinion: Mental Health Emergencies Deserve Compassion, Not Criminalization

By Samra Brouk and Brendan Cox | City & State New York | April 7, 2023

This year’s state budget must include funding for a pilot program that sends trained counselors, not armed police officers, to respond to mental health crises.

Heart attacks. Strokes. Seizures. Broken bones. These are all medical conditions that can constitute an emergency, and they are moments when an individual in need can expect to receive care from a person trained in addressing their condition, someone who can connect them to the necessary resources to continue care.

So why is it that those experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis are treated differently? Instead of receiving contact from a trained counselor or peer, these individuals are left to receive their care from armed law enforcement officers who receive far too little mental health training and often lack the resources necessary to address the needs of the person in crisis. This is a deadly combination, as those living with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be a victim of an officer-involved shooting, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center. Even law enforcement officers agree that they should not be the first line of response for these calls.

We can and should do better.

As budget negotiations continue in New York, we have an opportunity to make real change for those living with mental health conditions. We can fund the Daniel’s Law Pilot Program and Task Force, named for Daniel Prude, who lost his life in Rochester following a police response to his mental health crisis. This $10 million pilot program would allow the state to invest in new and existing programs already providing nonpolice, public health-based response, and its corresponding task force will solicit community feedback and make recommendations for a larger implementation. The state Senate included funding for Daniel’s Law in its proposed one-house budget, though both Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Assembly omitted it from their budget proposals.

The notion of nonpolice responders didn’t appear out of thin air. There are several successful community diversion programs across the country, which are proven to save lives, quicken response times, and even save money for municipalities. One of the most notable is the Cahoots program, which has operated out of Eugene, Oregon, for more than 30 years. According to the Vera Institute, Cahoots’ small operating budget of roughly $2 million results in municipal savings of over $14 million each year in ambulance trips and emergency room costs, plus an estimated $8.5 million in public safety costs.

On top of significant cost savings, these programs decrease the strain on our criminal justice system by connecting individuals in need of care with the treatment they need rather than an arrest. Further, by removing law enforcement from noncriminal calls, we can lower the likelihood of an escalation between the individual in crisis and the responder – several sources, like the Center for American Progress and the International Association of Chiefs of Police agree that the presence of an officer or even a police vehicle can create a lack of trust or even act as a trigger for someone who has had a previous negative experience with law enforcement.

The data is clear and professionals agree: first responders to mental health and substance use crises should be mental health providers or peers, not armed law enforcement officers. The Daniel’s Law Pilot Program and Task Force would make this a reality – and the governor and state Legislature have an obligation to fund this initiative in this year’s budget.

State Sen. Samra Brouk represents Rochester and is the chair of the Committee on Mental Health. Brendan Cox is the former chief of the Albany Police Department and director of policing strategies for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Support Bureau

Opinion: Mental health emergencies deserve compassion, not criminalization – City & State New York (cityandstateny.com)

Certified Peer Specialists: An Untapped Opportunity

April 7, 2023 (Submitted by Katherine Ponte, JD, MBA, CPRP, Reprinted from the NAMI Blog)

Group of people holding hands
When thinking about effective pathways to recovery, the mental health community must consider a largely untapped resource: Certified Peer Specialists (CPSs). People with mental illness who are employed as CPSs have proven to make a significant difference helping others in therapeutic settings.

CPSs (also referred to as peer specialists, peer navigators, peer providers, peer supporters or peer support workers) are “hired into designated peer positions or traditional mental health positions who must publicly self-identify as a peer and have been or are a service user themselves for their own mental health challenge.” Their role is based on a “system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility and mutual agreement of what is helpful.”

Essentially, CPSs can help peers manage their mental illness and other mental health challenges, like trauma, substance use or comorbid physical illness(es). This work supports recovery and helps with other recovery-oriented goals, such as education, employment, housing and social connectedness.

While there are more than 30,000 CPSs trained to do this work, the widespread implementation of peer support remains limited. This represents a significant issue in our health care system and a largely untapped part of the solution. Beyond the obvious benefits to those needing help from a peer, A CPS career can foster a sense of meaning and purpose for specialists, which is critical to their own recovery. For anyone who has mental illness and is looking for a meaningful career, it is a worthwhile option to consider.

(Read more on the NAMI Blog Site)

Kirsten Vincent Respite & Recovery Center in Buffalo

April 6, 2023 (Reprinted from NYAPRS ENews)

NYAPRS Note: We are very excited to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Kirsten Vincent Respite & Recovery Center in Buffalo next Tuesday! The opening of the Center, which utilizes an innovative and collaborative approach to offer a range of mental health services provided by three different agencies all under one roof, is the culmination of work started by the late Kirsten Vincent and other mental health leaders in Western NY. See below for more information about the Center and what it took to make Kirsten’s dream a reality

‘Unprecedented Collaboration’: Could Innovative Model in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt Bolster Region’s Mental Health Services?

Jon Harris | The Buffalo News | Apr 6, 2023

Kirsten Vincent was an innovative leader who worked to eliminate gaps in the mental health system as the CEO of Recovery Options Made Easy, a peer-run agency in Western New York. Until her unexpected death nearly two years ago, Vincent had pushed for a first-of-its-kind model in New York designed to support crisis stabilization and continued recovery.

The model she envisioned included a number of services under one roof, seeking to ensure that everyone had access to the right level of care and that, as a result, fewer people would slip through the cracks of a system in desperate need of repair.

Her vision is nearly fulfilled.

The ribbon will be cut Tuesday at the Kirsten Vincent Respite & Recovery Center at 111 Maple St. in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt. The renovated facility, formerly the St. John Baptist Hospice Buffalo House that had sat vacant for several years, will open its voluntary, recovery-focused services to the community April 17.

During a tour of the facility, Recovery Options CEO Shannon Higbee recalled Vincent as someone who had several degrees but, first and foremost, identified as a peer with lived experience.

“She would have loved that we got this to the finish line,” said Higbee, noting Vincent had been talking about this model since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

And the result of all that work, by Vincent and then by the leaders who came after her, is something unique in today’s health care scene: a facility comprised of separate providers all collaborating to bolster mental health services in Western New York. The aim is to get people the support they need in the appropriate setting and, in turn, avoid unnecessary trips to overcrowded and overwhelmed emergency departments.

Inside the center are four mental health support programs to meet people wherever they are in their recovery. The center includes two levels of Recovery Options’ peer-run respite services – a short-term crisis respite and an intensive crisis respite – as well as a renewal center associated with Western New York Independent Living and clinic services from Spectrum Health & Human Services.

“I’ve been in this work for about 45 years, and I would say this is probably the most collaborative we’ve truly been,” said Bob Cannata, Spectrum Health’s senior vice president of business development and community crisis services.

Mark O’Brien, commissioner of the Erie County’s Department of Mental Health, said the project represents an “unprecedented collaboration of three agencies under one roof” – a new model that has gained funding support and the attention of the state.

The center secured $1.9 million in funding to support capital development, startup costs and outfitting from a variety of sources, including the state Office of Mental Health; the Erie County Department of Mental Health; the Erie County Legislature; the John R. Oishei Foundation; the Patrick P. Lee Foundation; and the Peter and Elizabeth Tower Foundation.

A Pivotal Moment

To O’Brien and others, the center’s opening comes at a pivotal time, as mental health is getting more attention – and dollars – statewide and federally after the pandemic brought on an increased demand for services. The need may be even greater in Buffalo, which has persisted through one traumatic event after another over the last 11 months.

Increasingly, a system that for too long resembled a one-size-fits-all solution appears to be adapting. With new solutions coming online, that could alleviate some of the pressure and volume at Erie County Medical Center’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, a 24/7 service known as CPEP that serves as the largest safety-net mental health emergency department in the Buffalo Niagara region.

“We believe that 2023 will be a really important year for crisis response capabilities,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said the Kirsten Vincent Respite & Recovery Center will enhance the community-based crisis response with its range of services, which could help keep people out of CPEP or the hospital while also serving as a “discharge refuge.”

In addition, BestSelf Behavioral Health late this year hopes to open an intensive crisis stabilization center at its 430 Niagara St. location, which would give Western New Yorkers experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis another 24/7 option to receive care and support.

O’Brien said the county also has an ongoing ambulance diversion pilot program, a 911 call diversion program and is working with ECMC to reduce the demand and flow there so “that those folks who are making it to CPEP are really the people who need that level of care.”

What the Center Offers

The Kirsten Vincent Respite & Recovery Center will offer four levels of service, geared toward eliminating the need to transport people across the city in times of crisis and allowing individuals to move between the facility’s services as needed.

There is the Renewal Center, an existing program run by Mental Health Peer Connection, which is part of Western New York Independent Living. The Renewal Center, which is based on a living room model, is relocating from its current home at 327 Elm St. to the Kirsten Vincent Respite & Recovery Center and will keep its 3 to 11 p.m. daily walk-in hours, though it is always looking for funding to expand its hours, said Kevin Smith, director of Mental Health Peer Connection. Smith said the Renewal Center has six staff members rotating in and out, including a program manager, two part-time registered nurses and three peer-support specialists.

Recovery Options will have two levels of respite at the center, allowing individuals – who are at least 18 years old – who need a space to regroup and recover to stay up to 28 days while still having the ability to leave to go to work, attend medical appointments or take care of other responsibilities.

The short-term crisis respite, called Refreshing Waters, is an existing model running in Erie County that is moving to the center. The short-term crisis respite has four beds and offers 24-hour peer support.

The intensive crisis respite, called Restful Rivers, will have eight beds and 24-hour peer support, as well. Further, the intensive crisis respite will have 24-hour nurse coverage as well as psychiatric support and additional components over the short-term crisis respite.

While all the programs at the center are aimed at diverting people away from avoidable hospital visits, the respite programs, in particular, also offer a “step down from inpatient stays,” meaning it could help unclog hospitals as people prepare to reenter the community independently, said Higbee, Recovery Options’ CEO.

“It allows us to create flow within the system, so that we open up inpatient beds for those that need it, hopefully a little more quickly, by allowing them a supported step down to the intensive and then even from the intensive to the short term, if that’s available and necessary,” she said.

Rounding out the model of the Kirsten Vincent Respite & Recovery Center is a clinic from Spectrum Health, which has four offices in the new facility and will be able to serve community members as well as those who might be staying in the respite programs. Cannata, of Spectrum Health, said the provider will have up to five crisis counselors from Spectrum Health’s Buffalo H.O.P.E. Program who can provide free, anonymous and confidential emotional support. The provider also will be able connect people with other Spectrum Health services as needed.

“What they’re not going to hear is, ‘Oh, we don’t have anybody on site, so we can’t give you that,’ ” Cannata said. “We’re always going to be able to help people get what they need.” To start, Spectrum Health staff will be at the center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, hours that will be assessed depending on community need.

Between all the different providers on site, Higbee said the center will probably have 40 to 50 staff members total, eight to 12 of whom could be on site on any given shift.

Jennifer Levesque, director of clinical programs at Recovery Options, said the center having several levels of service is crucial, helping to meet a person wherever they are in their recovery when they take that difficult first step of seeking help and support.

“It is not a one-size-fits-all model – that’s really where you lose people to mental health,” she said. “We just want to make sure that people are getting what they need to be successful in their recovery.”


A couple of upcoming events will raise funds for the Kirsten Vincent Respite & Recovery Center. “The Concert for Jenn,” a sold-out show in honor of the late Jennifer Orr, who died in November after a long struggle with mental health and addiction, will be held Friday, April 21, at Nietzsche’s, 248 Allen St. in Buffalo, with all proceeds going to the Kirsten Vincent Respite & Recovery Center. While the show is sold out, organizers have formed a GoFundMe, with donations also going to the new center.