Chirlane McCray

Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA

City Council To Hold Hearing On Chirlane McCray's Mental Health Initiative

March 13, 2019 - 4:43 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- A nearly-$1 billion mental health initiative headed by New York City's first lady will soon be under the City Council's fiscal microscope.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson is personally urging Chirlane McCray to testify at an upcoming budget hearing to examine the ThriveNYC mental health program.

"I'm saying here that I invite her to come, that I do it with an open hand, I do it in the spirit of collaboration, I do it in a way where I am passionate about this issue. I am someone who has family members who have struggled with serious mental health issues. I have friends who have struggled," Johnson said. "I think that when the first lady's testified here in the past, she's spoken really eloquently and passionately about why she took this issue on. So she would be welcomed to come here and we want to work with her on this because we think it's an important issue."

But the speaker emphasized of the first lady's pet project, "Just like anything else it has to go through the budget process. We have to look at the money. We have to make sure it's being spent efficiently and effetively, and so, we're going to ask those questions."

The speaker promised the coming session would not be adversarial, but a number of council members have raised sharp question about the initiative's budget and 25 members have signed a document demanding an accounting.

The program has spent $850 million over four years and is slated to spend another $1 billion over the next four years.

Earlier this month, Comptroller Scott Stringer raised concerns about what he called a "lack of transparency" in the program. He is seeking updates on all of the programs, how much was spent for what and how many New Yorkers have sought and received assistance. He's also asking what the metrics are for measuring the success of mental health consultations.

Last week, McCray said Thrive’s hotline has fielded a half million calls and that the program has trained nearly 100,000 New Yorkers on ways to spot mental illness.

She says she welcomes the criticism and that they have hundreds of metrics to measure the program’s success and that they’re being completely transparent.