Holden calls ThriveNYC program into question after mentally ill man punches autistic child on subway train

Photo: Mark Hallum/Ridgewood Times

Questions over the effectiveness of First Lady Chirlane McCray’s ThriveNYC program continue as Queens Councilman Robert Holden called for more creative solutions to mental health after an eight-year-old autistic boy was allegedly punched by a homeless person on a Manhattan subway train.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer issued a letter claiming he would take a “hard look” at ThriveNYC after it spent $850 million over four years with no reported results and Holden has been one of the most prominent voices in City Council casting doubts on the program launched in 2017.

“Our city has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars into Thrive NYC to address mental illness, yet our subway riders continue to experience these incidents all the time,” Holden said. “This suspect, who authorities believe to be emotionally disturbed and homeless, allegedly punched an innocent autistic child in the head for no reason. Recent incidents involving mentally ill homeless individuals on the M train in my district led me to question the effectiveness of the Thrive NYC initiative, and I will continue to do so until we see the benefits of the program “all over the city” as they have claimed.”

But McCray stood behind the program claiming that despite the lack of data to backup its success, it has been praised many professionals in the field of mental health.

“Experts in behavioral health and health policy professionals have recognized Thrive as the most comprehensive mental health plan of any city in the nation,” McCray said responding to the Stringer audit. “There is far too little understanding out there about mental health conditions and treatments. It is my hope that this examination will encourage elected officials like the Comptroller to take our Mental Health First Aid course and take time to learn more about this area of health that has been so sorely neglected. Perhaps now we can go beyond political posturing and lip service, and have the kind of public conversation our city must have to promote the mental health of our children and families.”

Holden is still not buying the story that it is a successful program based on what he sees around the city and in his district.

“We must come up with more creative solutions to get these individuals off the streets and get them the help they need and deserve,” Holden continued.

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