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North Star #2

Mental Health Resources in Schools

NYC public school students will have access to culturally competent mental health resources.

What We Heard: In the wake of COVID-19, “mental health is wealth.”

  • Providing Support in Schools: When asked what mental health supports the City should prioritize, more than one-in-five adult survey respondents favored providing mental health and social workers in every public school  (ranked #3 for youth with 7,000 responses; ranked #1 for adults with 18,997 responses). Increased access to mental health resources in schools also emerged as a top priority during conversations with residents, who suggested increased access to mental health services in schools is vital to improving the physical and mental safety of students and schools, as well as academic performance and problem-solving skills. 
  • Increasing Holistic Services: When asked about the most urgent priorities for rebuilding our education system coming out of COVID, youth responses in the survey favored expanding community schools that provide physical, mental health, and other services (ranked #1 for youth with 7,429 responses;  ranked #3 for adults with 14,587 responses). The qualitative data gathered during community conversations also showed that lack of services (time, resources, funding, staff)served as a barrier to supporting students at risk of poor mental health outcomes (ELSJI, Faith in New York, Empower My Hood).
  • Building Community Safety: Both adult and youth survey respondents favored expanding access to mental health and substance abuse services as a top priority for preventing future contact with the criminal justice  system and helping justice-involved populations rebuild their lives (#2 rank for both adults and youth, with 10,449 youth responses and 24,151 adult responses). 6,182 young people stated that implementing conflict resolution and care-based approaches to behavioral issues can ensure one’s background does not determine their learning outcomes (#4 rank). 

How the City is Already Taking Action

Agencies and departments across the city are already starting to work towards ensuring that our youth have the mental health resources that they need. Recent initiatives include the administration’s commitment to continuing the Mental Health for All initiative that hires 500 new social workers and one-full time social worker at each school; the $5M commitment to establish a multi-agency partnership to provide mental health services for young people and students; the establishment of a Children’s Mobile Crisis Teams to provide care and short-term management for youth experiencing severe behavioral crisis, the creation of NYC Well a confidential, mobile service that provides 24/7 mental health support in more than 200 languages; and DOE’s commitment to conduct social emotional screens across all schools. 

Initial Commitments

  • The Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, in partnership with Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), in early 2023, will release a unified framework for NYC youth and family mental health to advance a system of care rooted in primary prevention, early detection and treatment, racial equity, and delivered when, where, and how children and families need them. Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom and DOHMH have already engaged youth, including NYC Speaks Youth Ambassadors, to inform the framework and ensure youth voice is incorporated, with plans to further engage parents and caregivers to understand their experience accessing mental health services for youth.
  • The Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives and the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services will reimagine the Children’s Cabinet to focus on supporting children and their families who are in Department of Homeless Services or Department of Veterans’ Services shelters. To support this, the Children’s Cabinet will have a dedicated working group on mental health. This is a part of a new commitment to ensure every child and their family living in shelters have ready access to mental wellness support and mental health care, and their caregiver(s) have the tools necessary to nurture and support each child’s mental wellbeing. The Children’s Cabinet’s objective is to increase coordination and efficiency across city departments, agencies, offices, nonprofits, and the private sector to drive a holistic approach to the long-term health, safety, and well-being for NYC children.
  • The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) will expand NYC Well to add more culturally competent mental health resources specifically for young people and launch an outreach campaign to promote use, increasing access to resources. NYC Well provides free and confidential mental health support to New York City residents. Both the new mental resources and outreach campaign will be informed by feedback from students.
  • The Department of Education (DOE) in partnership with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives will scale the Promote Minority Education tutoring program citywide to employ high-achieving high school students of color to tutor and mentor middle school students of color, creating opportunities for small group instruction, continued learning, community building, and peer mentorship. This program was pitched by NYC Youth Speaks Ambassador Omosefe Noruwa to Mayor Eric Adams during a NYC Youth Speaks conversation with the Mayor in June 2022.
  • The Department of Education (DOE) will create a social work pipeline that empowers NYC Public School students to become mental health providers and clinicians by: 
    • Analyzing labor market data on median wages and anticipated employment growth patterns in the community and social services sector to inform goals and future practices/approaches; 
    • Determining and developing rigorous, research-based and market-aligned career-connected pathways in education and/or social services, starting with K-12 education pathways; 
    • Establishing partnerships with academic institutions to map out career pathways that provide students with early college credits and/or credentials starting in high school; and
    • Designing rigorous and engaging professional learning opportunities in collaboration with higher education partners for in-service teachers on several necessary topics including but not limited to culturally relevant pedagogy and opportunities to explore the world of work.
  • The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) and Department of Education will collaborate to build a continuum of mental health support throughout the day, by encouraging connection between school-based mental health and wellness resources provided during the school day and DYCD school-based after-school programs. DOE will also extend current DOE mental health professional development training opportunities to DYCD funded after-school providers.


  • Number of NYC Well users
  • Number of students connected to school-based and after-school mental health resources
  • Number of middle school students of color served through the Promote Minority Education tutoring program
  • Number of students enrolled in social work programs earning college credit

“NYC Speaks was a unique opportunity for me to be in a room with partners from other city agencies. It was helpful to share and hear about resources available for children, youth, and families whom we jointly serve. The cross-agency collaboration was impressive because we were able to discuss ideas based on everyone’s expertise and vantage point, and then streamline our perspectives with the help of our facilitators. Our common goals became clearer as our different experiences combined. The overall process and priorities keeps hope alive and makes me feel enthusiastic about our shared vision.”

Gitanjali Thadhani, DSW, LMSW, MEd, MA

Director, Mental Health Coordination Unit
New York City Administration for Children’s Services

“NYC Speaks is a transformative initiative that dismantles the quick fix pill culture. Statistically, it’s seen that there are structural and systemic disparities in access and use of healthcare provisions, specifically for people of color. Being in the healthcare field, the emphasis is also majority on the curative. NYC Speaks focuses on Preventative Health and eliminating inequities. The prevention for both mental and physical health is not something often on the table for discussion, especially in policy making.”

Dr. Bindu Babu

Health & Wellbeing Policy Council Chair

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