New “CONNECT” mental health program coming to New York City

NEW YORK — A new mental health program is coming to New York City. 

It’s called “CONNECT.” 

As CBS2’s Astrid Martinez reported Tuesday, the treatment model is part of the city’s plan to address the growing crisis and expand resources to all New Yorkers. 

“New Yorkers are in pain,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. 

None of us have emerged from the last two years emotionally unscathed. We’ve suffered grief, loss, trauma, isolation, economic insecurity, violence and political strife.

“And like COVID-19 itself, the effects have not been felt equally,” Vasan said. 

Vasan says those disparities also include mental health.

“And it is indeed a crisis. I have previously even referred to this as the second pandemic because of its scale in the widespread nature, especially in places hardest hit by COVID-19,” Vasan said. 

A survey conducted by the New York City Health Department  last year found that one in four people reported symptoms of anxiety, depression and financial stress. Their data also showed Suicides increased by 30% among 10-24-year-olds. 

Now, New York City is promising hope. 

“We know that if young people get what they need, and if we give them the services that they need, that they and their families can be well,” said Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. 

New York city is launching a mental health pilot program, called Continuous Engagement between Community and Clinic Treatment, or “CONNECT.” This model will provide mental health care to anyone regardless of age or income, address social economic drivers that worsen mental health, and work with existing organizations to reach more New Yorkers.

“Series of touch points, schools, community based organizations, healthcare systems, street outreach. These are all places where people are and we have to bring care and on-ramps into care to where they are,” said XXX. 

“We hit a wall, right. We only had so many clinicians. We only had so much funding to be able to support the clients in our community, and there was a much greater need,” said Whitney Coulson, director of CONNECT. 

The funding from connect is crucial for Coulson. She’s CONNECT’s director at their Henry Street Settlement site in the Lower East Side. 

“Before Connect started there was a waitlist. There were folks who were told to call back in a few weeks,” Coulson said. “There are clinics that have a six month waitlist, and when you’re in crisis and you’re experiencing something you need support. Being told that we can’t help you, waiting for six months, does not help. In fact, it hinders.”

CONNECT will be at nine clinic sites in high-need areas all through the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Once fully operational, CONNECT will serve 900 new patients.

“It’s really hard to ask for help we need to make that easier,” said XXX. 

CONNECT clinics will provide on-site and off-site services. Depending on the neighborhood, programs will also offer individual and group counseling and soup kitchens.

Astrid Martinez contributed to this report. 

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