Speaking to Mental Health on the Peninsula

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Governor Kathy Hochul plans on investing, over time, more than $1 billion in mental health. (Photo by Wayne Daren Schneiderman)Photo credit: Wayne Daren Schneiderman
Governor Kathy Hochul earlier this month announced a plan to overhaul New York’s continuum of mental health care, and drastically reduce the number of individuals with unmet mental health needs throughout the state. 
“We have underinvested in mental health care for so long, and allowed the situation to become so dire, that it has become a public safety crisis as well,” Hochul said.      
Parenthetically, mental health is also a very real issue on our peninsula. 
“There’s definitely an issue with mental health in Rockaway. As anyone who has walked around Beach 116th Street knows all too well, there’s a very real mental health crisis affecting the area that needs to be addressed,” said District 32 Councilwoman Joann Ariola, adding that she is working with local facilities such as Gloria’s Manor (on Beach 119th Street) to boost security and better monitor residents. 
“To that end, we’ve teamed up with former NYPD Chief of Transit Joe Fox to get a better hold of the situation. Chief Fox will be working directly with the owner of Gloria’s Manor and adjacent properties, so he can oversee conditions and make sure that potential problem residents can be better supervised.”
Ariola also said that she is hoping that some of the money earmarked by the governor will go towards funding long-term care programs that will benefit people on the peninsula. 
“I will be fighting tooth and nail to make sure that money is put to good use, and that the people of District 32 will be supported by that initiative.” 
Hochul’s multi-year plan includes increasing operational capacity by 1,000 beds for inpatient psychiatric treatment, creating 3,500 units of housing to serve New Yorkers with mental illness, increasing insurance coverage for mental health services, dramatically expanding outpatient services, and creating systemic accountability for hospital admissions and discharges to better address the needs of individuals suffering with mental illness. These proposals, over time, will reflect more than $1 billion in investment in mental health.     
Ariola is also pushing hard for Hochul to reopen a number of currently closed psychiatric facilities, she said.
“Facilities like Creedmoor are currently sitting on vast tracts of empty property which can be turned into much needed treatment centers,” Ariola explained. “From there, we can then begin rolling out long-term care programs to make sure that many of the people who need service can get it.”
NYS Assembly Member Khaleel Anderson said he is “encouraged by the governor’s initial investment. But I want to see if it will impact Rockaway.”
“There is real trauma on this peninsula,” Anderson continued, pointing out that many have disinvested in mental health simply because “it’s not very sexy.” 
“St. John’s Hospital is really the only institution we have here, although it is currently in the process of expanding its facility.” 
Looking forward, Anderson said he is also going to be implementing “mobile mental health crisis intervention vans” – designed to meet people wherever they are. The goal is to travel through communities and provide intervention for those that may be having a psychotic episode, he pointed out.  
In addition, Anderson will be introducing a pilot mental health and psychosocial support program that aims to understand and support the experiences of working-class families addressing mental health and well-being. 
Launching in spring 2023, this first of its kind program will partner local barbershops with mental health professionals to provide the necessary information, tools, education, training, and resources that will help build the capacity of community leaders and members to proactively address and support the mental health and well-being of their community. 

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