Chirlane McCray’s embattled mental health plan ThriveNYC has been tasked with helping students traumatized by the coronavirus pandemic — despite criticism that the $1 billion program is costly and ineffective.
“The first lady and the chancellor are working together to take a lot of the initiatives that have been created through Thrive and apply them in the coming months with our kids remotely, but also to start the planning for September,” Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday at a joint press conference with McCray.
“We understand that in September there’s going to be a challenge in terms of mental health for our kids that is absolutely unprecedented and we’re going to have to do a lot in every school to support kids who have obviously been traumatized,” de Blasio said.
“As we get closer to the opening of school definitely a plan is going to be put out on mental health services in all schools for September and the first lady and the chancellor will be working on that together,” de Blasio said.
City Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) blasted the move, saying that it’s an effort to boost the profile of McCray who mulling a run for Brooklyn Borough President.
“At this point he is just trolling us and shifting taxpayer funds to the control of his unqualified and unelected wife in the hopes Brooklynites are blind enough to support her for borough president,” Borelli said.
Other critics from City Comptroller Scott Stringer to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, both Democrats, have said ThriveNYC spends millions of taxpayer dollars without ensuring that people with the most severe mental health issues receive treatment.
During the mayor’s briefing, McCray said teachers are being trained in “social emotional learning,” to help kids manage their feelings. Teachers are also working with students online to deal with their “emotional needs” during the COVID-19 crisis, McCray said.
“In the fall we hope to have a more expanded program because we know that so many of our young people are going to come back in distress. But we haven’t stopped doing anything we’re already doing. We’re doing what we can virtually. Training the teachers, bringing them up to speed so that they will be ready in September,” McCray said.
Reps for McCray could not immediately provide details about what ThriveNYC programs would be integrated into schools.
Dawn Yuster, with the nonprofit Advocates for Children of NY, urged the first lady and chancellor to consult with experts before finalizing their plans.
“As the city charts out a plan to address student mental health, it is more dire than ever that the administration launch a program targeted to students with significant mental health challenges pre-dating, and exacerbated by, the trauma of the pandemic who require a higher level of integrated services to succeed in school,” said Yuster,
“A diverse group of students, educators, parents, and advocates stand ready to work with the administration to advance this critical budget priority that will fill this significant service gap,” she said.
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