Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Small mental-health ‘clubhouses’ score $2M from NYC council but say it’s still not enough

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The City Council has ponied up $2 million for small mental-health “clubhouses” at risk of closing when their contracts expire Sept. 30, but the funds aren’t enough to keep all of them open indefinitely, advocates warn.

During budget negotiations, Mayor Eric Adams’ office said it would only agree to give $30 million to the larger meeting sites as opposed to the smaller neighborhood ones, according to a council source.

“It was clear that the administration was sticking to their approach. So the council had to step in,” the source told The Post. 

Lawrence Fowler, who runs one of the smaller mental-health “clubhouses,” said he and some of the other site overseers will meet with City Council members Wednesday. emmabowdencenter/Instagram

Five of the nine smaller clubhouses that were not awarded new contracts are now interested in the $2 million in council discretionary funding that is being offered — and will meet with City Council members about it Wednesday, according to Lawrence Fowler, who runs one of the nine, the neighborhood Rainbow clubhouse in Harlem.

But Fowler said the discretionary funding isn’t enough to keep the clubhouses open indefinitely.

“Based on our math, it would seem that those dollars won’t be sufficient to keep us open beyond the middle or end of March,” Fowler said.

He vowed to keep fighting the city until small clubhouses are included in the regular recurring budget.

“We have won a battle, but the war still needs to be fought,” Fowler said.

The small clubhouses have the backing of Linda Lee, chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disability and Addiction.

Council member Linda Lee said she is still fighting to keep the smaller clubhouses open. CMLindaLee/X

“In a budget where the City Council fought to restore so many initiatives, I am proud that we stepped up to allocate critical funding to save some of the smaller clubhouses at risk of closing due to the Administration’s [Request for Proposal],” Lee told The Post.

“We know much more will be needed to ensure that these programs can remain operational, but my colleagues and I in the Council remain committed to keeping clubhouse doors open and expanding access to services for some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

Lee and 36 other council members sent a letter to the city commissioner of health, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, on June 20 demanding the city restore funding for the smaller mental-health clubhouses.

“To avert a disastrous step backward for our city’s mental healthcare system in the midst of an already acute crisis, we are committed to keeping these clubhouses open,” the letter said. “We urge that funding be restored to these essential services for our most vulnerable and isolated New Yorkers.”

Mental-health clubhouses provide support and non-clinical therapy to members, including connecting mentally ill New Yorkers with jobs and training. Fountain House/Facebook

Clubhouse advocates had sounded the alarm to The Post when the city limited its $30 million of funding to clubhouses with 300 members or more.

Experts said the model works best with a mix of small and large clubhouses because some members have a difficult time adjusting to large groups or are unable to make a long commute to one of the more spread-out larger locations.

Clubhouse directors also complained that the city’s move didn’t give enough time to relocate members who are interested in joining one of the larger clubhouses.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a Post request for comment.

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