Thursday, June 13, 2024

City Health Commissioner Vasan’s unforced mental-health miscue

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Mayor Adams and Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan are getting major pushback for messing with small mental-health community centers — and rightly so.

Their theory is that since these centers work, City Hall aims to invest up to $30 million to triple membership in the “clubhouses” (adult day centers that connect people with significant mental illness with peers, art therapy and sometimes jobs) from 5,000 to 15,000 within a few years.

But Vasan means to go for bigger ones (cutting the total from 16 to 13), when the intimate setting is likely what makes them work.

First, we’re not sure this is where the city should be putting so many added mental-health dollars: The centers aren’t for the severely mentally ill, the tragic souls we should be getting off the streets entirely; they instead help adults with major depressive disorder and similar challenges

And the communities that appreciate them doubt that centers serving 300 or more people a day (a goal that rules out nine of the current 16 clubhouses from getting city contracts under Vasan’s vision) can serve the same needs.

Plus, the city’s not covering startup costs for the new clubhouses, which means they may well wind up in different neighborhoods than the ones serving existing clients.

As the former CEO of Fountain House, the city’s largest clubhouse provider, Vasan’s perspective may be lacking — and his rigid, prolonged attachment to mask mandates and similar voodoo starting in 2022 makes us doubt his judgment, period.

The last expansion, in the de Blasio years, was only from 3,000 to 3,750 members at first; adding small centers got the city to 5,000.

It seems beyond arrogant to rush to triple those served by fundamentally remaking the service.

We urge the mayor and his commissioner to remember the fundamental rule of medicine: First, do no harm.

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