First Lady McCary Hosts National Leaders At Cities Thrive Coalition Virtual Announcement

November 17, 2021

First Lady Chirlane McCray yesterday held a virtual convening of Cities Thrive.

A national mental health coalition committed to driving reform in mental health and substance use treatment on a local and federal level across the United States.

The First Lady convened City and County representatives as well as mental health allies, to announce the transition of Cities Thrive to the National Council in 2022 and usher in the next phase of engagement to drive mental health substance use treatment reform at the local and national level. The convening also included the announcement of Cities Thrive’s new incoming co-chairs, Mayor Michael B. Hancock of Denver, Colorado, and Mayor Hillary Schieve of Reno, Nevada.

“As we recover from COVID-19 and write the next chapter, we must support the health and well-being of every American,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Cities Thrive continues to show us what we can and must do at the local level to uplift our communities and today’s announcement marks the next and right step in the fight for mental health reform across party lines and across the country.”

“Cities Thrive has made a significant contribution to lessening stigma, creating a public conversation and fighting for reform in mental health and substance use treatment over the past five years in America,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “Today is the beginning of a new chapter in the movement we have built together, with a permanent home at the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and with two new co-chairs, Mayors Hillary Schieve and Michael B. Hancock, who have proven themselves as effective collaborators and powerful champions for this work. Going forward, we will have more voices and more muscle in the fight to end stigma and bring about equity and reforms we need in the behavioral health space.”

Launched in 2016, Cities Thrive is a coalition of mayors, county officials, and allies who are pioneering innovative ways to address mental health and substance use challenges across the country. Cities Thrive builds and expands upon the key principles of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health, formerly ThriveNYC.

The Coalition has:

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  • Built capacity for action, growing our movement to 220+ localities in all 50 states. 
  • Convened cities and counties to share best practices for making mental health equity a priority pre-pandemic, during the response, and in recovery. 
  • Advocated at the federal level including: 
  • Urging lawmakers to pass H.R. 34 (Cures Act) to extend existing federal mental health programs, invest in community-based mental health care, and provide $1B to fight the growing opioid crisis.   
  • The bill was passed and signed into law December 2016.  
  • Calling on lawmakers to extend and expand Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics demonstration.   
  • FY20 funding included extension of 8-state CCBHC demonstration and additional $50 million increase, bringing total allocation of CCBHC grants to $200 million.  
  • Urging lawmakers to maximize opportunities to prevent suicide by having the FCC designate 9-8-8 as the universal phone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. This became law in 2020 and will be activated in 2022.  

One in five Americans suffers from a mental health condition, which means everyone is directly or indirectly affected by the lack of adequate services. But for too long, discussion of anxiety, depression, substance use and other challenges have been stigmatized and have not received the level and breadth of response they require. The Cities Thrive coalition is committed to challenging that stigma, fighting for a better funded and more integrated behavioral health approach, as well as convening cities and counties to share innovative ways to advance mental health prevention and promotion, close treatment gaps, and partner with communities to create culturally competent solutions.

“Cities Thrive is among the leading coalitions in the nation working to improve the lives and livelihoods of people with mental health challenges. It is not easy work. It is not always thankful work. But it is honorable, necessary, live-saving work,” said Chuck Ingoglia, President and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. “The National Council will proudly and diligently apply its expertise to the cause begun by the First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray. The First Lady and the staff of Cities Thrive succeeded where so few have by advocating for those with a mental health challenge and providing access to treatment and services. Despite their progress, there is so much work to be done, and the National Council will devote its resources to the mission Cities Thrive initiated. We are driven by our goal to make mental wellbeing a reality for everyone. Working with the Cities Thrive network will help us achieve that goal.” 

“We must innovate with behavioral health solutions designed to get people the right care at the right time, care that has become even more urgent since the pandemic, and I’m honored to serve as a co-chair for this next phase of Cities Thrive’s important work,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock, City of Denver. “Through these partnerships and collaboration, we can bridge the gaps in our behavioral health systems, so that no one in Denver or any community across this country falls through the cracks in their time of greatest need.”

“Now more than ever cities can no longer take a back seat to an even larger pandemic known as mental health and addiction. We need a mental health first approach in cities to raise awareness, educate, and to provide the necessary mental health care that has been left for far too long in the darkest of shadows. With the work of Cities Thrive, and the dedication of First Lady Chirlane McCray, I am beyond honored to join an impeccable team of mental health first champions in cities,” said Mayor Hillary Schieve, City of Reno.

“Chicago is proud to be a part of the Cities Thrive Coalition. This coalition allows us to collaborate at a national level to demonstrate our continuous commitment to mental health and to ensuring resources reach the most vulnerable communities. I look forward this next phase of engagement and to the transformational work coalition members will advance to destigmatize and treat mental health needs in our cities,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot, City of Chicago.

“Mental Health America is proud to be an active partner in the Cities Thrive Coalition,” said Schroeder Stribling, President and CEO of Mental Health America. “We commend the First Lady of New York City and the Coalition for the vital and visionary work they have undertaken to strengthen our country’s mental health and focus on scalable solutions for individual and community needs. We look forward to working with our longtime partners at National Council as they move this critical work forward. As the nation recovers from the pandemic, we will need to keep a determined focus on mental health – Cities Thrive is an ambitious and impressive example of how we can work in collaboration to do so.” 

Cities Thrive has been an extraordinary undertaking by the First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray to drive mental health reforms at the local levels”, said Kimberly Williams, President and CEO of Vibrant Emotional Health. “As the administrators of NYC Well, the lynchpin of ThriveNYC, the groundbreaking mental health plan from which Cities Thrive is built, Vibrant knows how valuable investment in accessible mental health resources can be in breaking down stigmas and helping individuals find the support they need. These resources save lives. Knowing the National Council will carry forward and build upon the initial success of Cities Thrive is very good news for the millions of Americans living with mental health challenges.” 

“Cities are on the front lines of addressing Americans’ mental health and addiction challenges,” said former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum. “Having a platform for uniting leaders in best practices is a major part of building the system we need. And now, more than ever, it’s going to take all hands on deck. I’m thankful for Ms. McCray’s leadership thus far and look forward to supporting the National Council, Mayor Hancock, and Mayor Schieve in this next phase of impact.”

“Our partnership with Cities Thrive has provided a platform for Bernalillo County to work with leaders and advocates around the nation who share a common goal to development comprehensive behavioral health systems of care,” said Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca. “As a part of this collaboration, Bernalillo County takes part in the national conversation concerning successes, challenges, and best practices of behavioral health systems and as a result have been able to apply this knowledge to better inform what we are doing at the local level. We look forward to a continued relationship with our partners at Cities Thrive.”

For a list of Cities Thrive Members, click here.  

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