Calls For New York City To Restore Funding For Patient Services

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Published on June 13, 2024, 8:53 pm
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On Tuesday, June 11, 2024, at New York City (NYC) Hall, over 80 leaders, staff, and clients representing mental health Clubhouses and HIV and AIDS services organizations—as well as activists and elected officials—rallied against cuts to programs serving New Yorkers with serious mental illness, as well as those living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. They called upon Mayor Adams and the NYC Council to restore $5.7 million in funding to HIV and AIDS services organizations. They also demanded an extension of the contracts of seven community-based mental health Clubhouses /three (3) in Manhattan, two (2) in the Bronx, one (1) in Brooklyn, and one (1) in Queens/ through June 2025 to ensure the continuity and health of over 500 Clubhouse members they serve. The cuts and contract changes in the Mayor’s FY25 NYC budget will go into effect on July 1, while funding for the seven community-based Clubhouses will end September 30.

The organizations who came together in support of the rally included (in alphabetical order): ACT UP NY; Callen-Lorde Community Health Center; Emma L. Bowen Community Service Center (Rainbow Clubhouse); GMHC; and Housing Works.

Agency leaders, staff, and program clients who spoke at the rally included (in alphabetical order): Jason Cianciotto (GMHC); Dice Cooper (Lifelinks); Lawrence Fowler (Emma L. Bowen Community Service Center); Ruth Garcia (Housing Works); Natasha Goykhberg (Callen-Lorde); Daniel Hiraldo (GMHC); Maddie Beaton (Act Up NY); Marcelo Maia (Act Up NY); Anthony Morrishow (Rainbow Clubhouse member); Antonio R. (Rainbow Clubhouse member); and Valentina Vidal (GMHC).

Elected officials who attended and spoke at the rally included (in alphabetical order): NYC Council Member Erik Bottcher; NYC Council Member Gale Brewer; NYC Council Member Tiffany Cabán; NYC Council Member Shekar Krishnan; NYC Council Member Linda Lee; Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine; NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

The following are statements from elected officials and agency and community leaders (in alphabetical order):

“Mental healthcare treatment must be rooted in community–and that is what our local Clubhouses do the best. Stripping New Yorkers of these intimate support networks, where they know the staff, where they are close to their home, their family, and their friends, and where they know for sure they are safe and cared for, will be nothing short of destabilizing,” said NYC Council Member Shaun Abreu. “While I welcome increased investments in mental healthcare, I am wary of this administration’s one-size-fits-all approach to this crisis. Upending community is not the way forward.”

“These cuts to HIV healthcare affect the most vulnerable populations, especially long-term HIV+ survivors, many of whom have been living with the virus for three to four decades,” said ACT UP NY member Ivy Arce, who has been living with HIV for 34 years. “I challenge Mayor Adams to redirect one week of over-policing funds, totaling $203 million, to HIV healthcare and equity.”

“Clubhouses have improved the lives of countless New Yorkers, and their success is inextricably linked to the diverse network of facilities that have served as reliable anchors in local communities for decades, such as the TOPS Clubhouse at Goddard Riverside in my district,” said NYC Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “TOPS, a program I have visited, provides psychosocial rehabilitation services, skills needed to live independently, and other evidence -based practices to help participants build confidence and promote positive feelings of self-worth and accomplishment. Most importantly, TOPS is a family for so many who have none.”

“Community-based clubhouses form a critical part of the continuum of care for New Yorkers living with serious mental illness, as well as those living with HIV and AIDS,” said NYC Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “The Mayor’s rash decision to centralize the clubhouses and create ‘mega hubs’ will only serve to degrade services and rip New Yorkers away from their long established, beloved communities. I, alongside many of my colleagues in Council, demand that the M ayor reverse course and restore funding so that the city’s existing network of community -based clubhouses can thrive.”

“If the $1.1 million in funding to GMHC cut by Mayor Adams is not fully restored, three critical programs for our clients living with or affected by HIV and AIDS—HIV Prevention and Literacy for Older Adults, RISE (Realizing Independence Through Support & Employment), and the Undetectables—will end, and 13 staff will be affected,“ said Jason Cianciotto, GMHC’s Vice President of Public Policy and External Affairs. “Therefore, in solidarity with Callen-Lorde, Harlem United and Housing Works, and in protest of Mayor Adams’ budget cuts, GMHC will not be participating in this year’s NYC Pride March on Sunday, June 30, 2024.”

“The Emma L. Bowen Community Service Center has offered a Clubhouse program that provides individuals with severe and persistent mental illness, a supportive environment where they are encouraged and assisted to reach their individual and self-determined goals for more than three decades,” said Patrica C. Jordan, Board Chair. “Through Rainbow Clubhouse, our members develop healthy relationships and are provided an opportunity to learn skills necessary to find meaningful employment. Additionally, our members also have access to our addiction treatment programs, Food Pantry and social services, which more than half of our current 146 members take advantage of. While we applaud the increased investment in mental health funding, it should not come at the expense of community-based organizations like ours. It should help to bolster our efforts while also creating more options for those in need.”

“If the cuts to Clubhouses are not reversed, my community of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, and Woodside will suffer,” said NYC Council Member Shekar Krishnan. “There is already so much stigma for folks in immigrant communities of color related to receiving mental health care, and these cuts will only exacerbate the issue. I am proud to stand with Council colleagues to demand that our Clubhouses are funded and that our neighbors continue to get the vital mental health care they need.”

“I have visited Clubhouses of all sizes and witnessed their incredible work firsthand. As a former social worker, I understand the vital role each clubhouse plays,” said NYC Council Member Linda Lee, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction. We should preserve options for communities, not reducing them by closing Clubhouses. If the Administration does not reconsider this proposal to close life-saving programs, our neighbors will not get the mental health care they need.”

“We stand united against policies that jeopardize the health and safety of our most vulnerable communities. These Clubhouses are vital resources for hundreds of Manhattanites and New Yorkers broadly, and diverting resources without an appropriate way to ensure continued care must be avoided,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “I urge the City to restore the $5.7 million reduction to HIV and AIDS funds that support low-income New Yorkers of color and LGBTQ+ individuals, and ensure no New Yorker loses access to their community-based mental health clubhouses.”

“Cutting HIV funding will prolong the HIV crisis, harm patients, and make New York sicker. We are calling for these cuts to be reversed immediately—this is a matter of life and death,” said Callen-Lorde CEO Patrick McGovern. “These funds help our patients keep their viral loads undetectable and give them a sense of hope, stability, and a pathway to healthier and longer lives, while preventing further spread of the virus. These programs also give our medical staff more tools and options to engage and support their patients.”

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