NYC streamlines access to mental-health help, generating interest in Philly region

    (Image via

    (Image via

    Thanks to a massive mental health campaign, “Thrive NYC,” people in that city can text or chat with someone at a crisis hotline. Some aspects of the new hotline are attracting the attention of similar services in the Delaware Valley.

    If you need mental health help in New York City, you can text a hotline number and trade messages with a counselor who can help you get an appointment at a clinic in your neighborhood. And, with your consent, someone will call you back within a few days to make sure you’re feeling OK.

    “Many of the people who received these follow-up calls are saying, ‘Oh, my God! I can’t believe you called me back.’ And the counselors themselves who are historically doing these sorts of ‘one and done’ interactions are finding it an additional tool in their toolbox,” said Jamie Neckles, chief program officer of the Bureau of Mental Health at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

    The revamp comes as part of a broader push to improve behavioral health services in New York, she said.

    Philadelphia’s commissioner of behavioral health services, Arthur Evans, said the spirit of the city’s hotline and approach to mental health are the same.

    “It’s really a comprehensive approach to how we educate the public about mental health issues, as well as how do we create access points for people who have mental health challenges,” Evans said. For example, Philadelphia has mobile response teams who work in conjunction with the hotline.

    New York officials drew inspiration for their new initiative from how Philadelphia has handled behavioral health care, he said.

    A representative of Delaware’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health said that, after looking at New York City’s model, she also liked the text options, but that the department “would need to check how those options would fit into its existing Mobile Crisis Services system.”

    Evans agreed.

    “I love the idea of the texting capability,” he said. “I think having that added capability is really a nice feature and something that we’ll be looking at.”

    New York City was able to upgrade its hotline because of an influx of city and state money — around $7.3 million this year.

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