City announces expanded mental health support at schools

Ari Ephraim Feldman

4/27/2021

City will hire 600 new mental health workers for fall return to classrooms

Every New York City public school will get additional staff to provide routine mental health check-ins to all students starting this fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

The extensive effort to provide mental health services in schools will come as hundreds of thousands of children return to classrooms in person for the first time in more than 18 months, many carrying lingering trauma, grief and confusion stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our kids really respond when you give them a chance to talk about their feelings,” de Blasio said at a news conference. “Our kids don't have the hang ups a lot of adults have.”

The new initiative will hire 600 social workers, psychologists and family support workers into public schools, meaning that every city public school will have at least one full-time social worker. The city’s voluntary summer education program, Summer Rising, will also have social workers at every site.

Students from preschool age to 12th grade will also have access to a social-emotional screening tool to assess their moods and look for signs of trauma. The city’s 30,000 early childhood staff members will receive professional development training in trauma-informed care.

“We will make sure every educator has both the training and resources necessary to identify social emotional issues at their school that students may be grappling with,” said Meisha Porter, the city’s schools chancellor.

Critics have accused the de Blasio administration's signature mental health initiative — ThriveNYC, which is run by his wife, first lady Chirlane McCray, and was launced in 2015 — of not living up to its stated promises to supplement mental health services across the city and connect city residents with those services.

Representatives for de Blasio did not immediately respond to questions about the cost of the new initiative where funding for it will come from and whether it is being coordinated by ThriveNYC.