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New Initiative Reduces Wait Times for Mental Health Appointments for Domestic Violence Shelter Residents

The $5.8 million Domestic Violence Shelter Mental Health Initiative will offer therapy appointments within the first weeks that someone enters a domestic violence shelter

Counseling is provided at no cost to the resident

Over 500 staff members at the city’s 55 Domestic Violence shelters will be trained on topics related to mental health and trauma

May 30, 2023

The City today announced the Domestic Violence Shelter Mental Health Initiative, which will increase access to mental health services for families residing in the city’s domestic violence shelters. The $5.8 million initiative will support more than 10,000 adults and children who receive services at the city’s 55 domestic violence shelters. It will bring mental health services – screenings, individual and group sessions, medication management – directly on-site to adults and children in domestic violence shelters, decreasing wait times. Counseling is provided at no cost to the resident. Initially starting at 9 shelters, the initiative will expand to all shelters by early 2025. The Domestic Violence Shelter Mental Health Initiative is a multi-agency collaboration between NYC Health + Hospitals, the NYC Department of Social Services/Human Resources Administration, the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence, and the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health.

“We want survivors of domestic and gender-based violence to know that that they are not alone, and New York City is here to help and support them,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “With this new initiative, domestic violence shelter residents will have access to therapy appointments, trauma-informed care, and ongoing support, marking a significant step in our work to expand and strengthen care for survivors.”

“This specialized initiative focusing on children and families living in domestic violence shelters provides mental health supports at a crucial moment and time in their lives,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “Additionally, having those supports provided within the first weeks of entering a shelter helps build a foundation for a better path forward for every child, family, and individual that is a survivor of domestic violence.  Thank you to all the agency partners that have come together to make this initiative possible: NYC Health + Hospitals, DSS, ENDGBV, and OCMH.”

“The Domestic Violence Shelter Mental Health Initiative exemplifies our commitment to serving New Yorkers where they are,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Co-Deputy Chief Medical Officer and System Chief of Behavioral Health Omar Fattal, MD, MPH. “When you need support from a mental health professional, you should be able to get it quickly and in your community. NYC Health + Hospitals, the city’s largest provider of behavioral health care, is proud to support residents in domestic violence shelters with immediate screening for mental health needs, a first appointment within weeks, and ongoing care if needed.”

“Trauma recovery is critical to one’s mental wellness, stability and security,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Director of Domestic Violence Mental Health Initiatives Obianuju Berry, MD, MPH. “This is why the services provided through this multi-agency initiative are so important to New York City adults and children impacted by domestic violence. Reducing barriers and expediting mental health resources to thousands of families in domestic violence shelters is essential to helping them feel safe physically and emotionally.”

“This initiative recognizes that strengthening access to mental health supports and quality healthcare are absolutely critical to addressing homelessness and helping some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers truly stabilize their lives,” said Department of Social Services Deputy Commissioner of Domestic Violence Services Rima Rivera. “We are incredibly grateful to NYC Health + Hospitals and our other partners as we work together on collaborative solutions to effectively respond with urgency to this crisis. These vital investments and resources will help build on our ongoing efforts to provide robust on-site services and supports to survivors of domestic violence residing in shelter.”

“We are pleased to see the launch of the Domestic Violence Shelter Mental Health Initiative, which builds on the success of our Family Justice Center Mental Health program that we run in partnership with NYC Health + Hospitals at all five of the City’s Family Justice Centers,” said Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel. “Adding mental health teams to the City’s domestic violence shelter system will further strengthen the trauma-informed services already embedded within these shelters and ensure that survivors and their children have ready access to the supports they need. My office looks forward to supporting this work through our partnerships with NYC Health + Hospitals, NYC Department of Social Services/Human Resources Administration, and the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health.”

“Families who have endured the compounding effect of domestic violence and homelessness deserve all the support and care they need on the road of healing and rebuilding. OCMH is extremely proud to be a part of this multi-agency collaboration to offer these families immediate access to critical mental healthcare upon entering the shelter system,” said Eva Wong, Executive Director of Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health (OCMH). “This initiative is essential in quickly connecting mental healthcare to families recovering from the serious emotional and psychological trauma caused by witnessing and experiencing violence in their homes and subsequently entering the shelter system. OCMH will continue to partner with our sister agencies to strengthen the resilience, mental health, and wellbeing of all New Yorkers.”

At participating domestic violence shelters, residents are screened for mental health services upon arrival at the facility. Residents who need and want services will have access to on-site services, greatly improving upon current wait times. To further support access, families will be able to attend weekly individual therapy appointments in person at their shelter, at an NYC Health + Hospitals facility, or using telehealth. Weekend and night coverage will be provided through the health system’s Virtual ExpressCare service. Group therapy sessions and medication management will also be available.

In addition, over 500 staff members in domestic violence shelters will be trained extensively on topics related to mental health and trauma. The trainings will provide essential knowledge and tools to support staff engagement with families at their shelter to help reduce the stigma of mental health and enhance the connection to care for the adults and children in domestic violence shelters. 

“Gender-based violence is a major risk factor for mental health concerns,” said Adam Brown, Vice Provost for Research and Director of the Trauma and Global Mental Health Lab at the New School. “Yet, due to issues of stigma and other barriers to care, survivors of gender-based violence often go without access to adequate mental health support. The New School is proud to be part of this important initiative, which has the potential to truly transform where and how care takes place for survivors of gender-based violence. The comprehensive approach will significantly increase capacity and lead to rapid detection, referrals, and treatment, and ultimately, much needed support for the wellbeing of individuals and families across this shelter system. As a partner in this initiative, The New School has been fortunate to lead the Psychological First Aid trainings to provide staff with tools to identify and reduce distress in shelter residents. We will likely see better outcomes and this strategy will serve as a national model for how cities can prevent and reduce mental health issues for survivors of gender-based violence.”

“Making mental health services easily accessible to the adults and children we serve in our domestic violence shelters is critical to helping survivors on their path to recovery,” said Jacqueline Collazo, Director of Domestic Violence Services at Volunteers of America-Greater New York. “We are proud to partner with NYC Health + Hospitals on the Domestic Violence Shelter Mental Health Initiative to ensure these vital services are part of a trauma-informed approach to meeting survivors where they are and supporting them as they work towards independence and resilience. VOA-GNY is grateful for the opportunity to enrich the mental health services we offer at our Domestic Violence Shelters.”

“URI was proud to partner with NYC Health + Hospitals to provide our clients with access to additional mental health support,” said Nathaniel Fields, CEO of Urban Resource Institute (URI). “Most of our clients enter shelter after having experienced unimaginable trauma. URI works with survivors and their families to provide client-centered and trauma-informed support that helps set them on the path to safety and healing; the Domestic Violence Shelter Mental Health Initiative enhances that support. In addition to extensive shelter staff training and support, the Initiative has provided our clients with the emotional tools they need to heal. As the largest and leading provider of domestic violence shelters and supports services in the nation, we are grateful for our partnership with the NYC Health + Hospitals, NYC Department of Social Services/Human Resources Administration, and the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health.”

DSS-HRA’s Domestic Violence Services (DVS) oversees the nation’s largest, most comprehensive DVS transitional housing system. In partnership with a strong network of experienced not-for-profit providers, DSS-HRA provides emergency transitional housing services and robust wrapround supports for survivors of domestic violence across 55 dedicated DVS shelter programs. Dedicated case managers and staff work closely with each client to address their unique needs while connecting them to vital resources and supports to help them stabilize their lives. These services include dedicated on-site case management supports, individual and work-group counseling sessions, psycho-educational group work, housing assistance support, medical and mental health services, child care, empowerment programs, employment and benefit assistance, after-care, and advocacy. The system serves more than 10,000 survivors of domestic violence and their children annually.

In this multi-agency collaboration, NYC Health + Hospitals provides mental health counseling and oversight of the initiative; the NYC Department of Social Services/Human Resources Administration supports the oversight of the initiative and manages the domestic violence shelters; the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence offers guidance on the needs of families impacted by domestic and gender-based violence; and the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health provides technical assistance and interagency coordination.

NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest provider of behavioral health in New York City. The system provides almost 60% of behavioral health services citywide serving over 75,000 patients annually across emergency, inpatient and outpatient care.

MEDIA CONTACT: 212-788-3339; PressOffice@nychhc.org

About NYC Health + Hospitals
NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest municipal health care system in the nation serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs. A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals. Its diverse workforce of more than 43,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.