NYC Health + Hospitals Unveils Three-Year Plan To Enhance Behavioral Health Services

June 6, 2024

NYC Health + Hospitals today announced a comprehensive three-year plan to strengthen and expand its behavioral health services in a new report, Behavioral Health Blueprint: Turning Crisis into Opportunity.

As the largest provider of behavioral health in New York City, NYC Health + Hospitals has identified six core strategies for the three-year period between 2024 and 2026 that will guide its efforts to restore and maximize inpatient capacity; expand access to outpatient services; increase services for special populations; enhance social work, care management, and peer services; prevent violence and increase safety; and build the behavioral health workforce. These efforts are funded in part with $41M through the Behavioral Health Centers of Excellence, a New York State investment to rebuild, develop, and enhance core acute and outpatient behavioral health services, targeting high risk individuals enrolled in New York State Medicaid Managed Care. Additional funding includes Opioid Settlement Funding as well as City, State, Federal, and philanthropic funds.

“Today, our public hospitals are announcing a comprehensive plan to expand capacity, improve services, and invest in our health care workforce so we can continue to serve the diverse mental health needs of all New Yorkers,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “NYC Health + Hospitals stands as a leader in providing behavioral health care, already serving more than 76,000 patients a year for mental health and substance use needs. With this plan, our administration will expand our reach and bring even more compassionate and competent care to New Yorkers who need it.”

“The blueprint announced today will build on the system’s work that includes some 5,000 behavioral health staff, add training programs for social workers, build out violence prevention programs, make investments to recruit and train additional staff to meet ongoing needs, among many other items,” said Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom. “Thank you to the dedicated teams doing this work serving more than 75,000 patients a year through behavioral health and substance use programs. This critical work serving so many New Yorkers builds on our administration’s larger strategy to connect every person in need of behavioral health or substance use services to the care they need to be safe and healthy.”

“We have an obligation to ensure all New Yorkers experiencing behavioral health issues have access to the level of care and support they need to live and thrive,” said New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan. “Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, our state is making a bold, multi-year investment that will strengthen our mental health care system and build out critical services across the board. I would like to thank NYC Health + Hospitals for joining this effort by developing an ambitious plan to guide their behavioral health care services into the future.”

“This blueprint and bold investment show once again that excellence in behavioral health is core to NYC Health + Hospital’s mission,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “In a critical time for behavioral health across our city, it delivers the strategic vision and commitment this moment demands. This vision represents the best of our system, and we are proud to bring it to life.”

“As demand for our services grows, our system is also confronting significant challenges, including an aging infrastructure and a nationwide health care workforce shortage,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Deputy Chief Medical Officer and System Chief of Behavioral Health Omar Fattal, MD, MPH. “Yet just like the city we serve, we don’t turn away in the face of challenges; we accelerate our work and deepen our resolve. We are doubling down on our commitment to deliver exceptional behavioral health services across the care continuum, and this Blueprint outlines the steps that we have already started taking towards that goal.”

Over 76,000 patients each year rely on NYC Health + Hospitals behavioral health services, giving the system a major role caring for New Yorkers’ mental health and substance use treatment needs. With nearly 5,000 dedicated behavioral health staff members across 11 hospitals and over 30 community health care centers, the system provides approximately 60% of behavioral health services in New York City. This includes a high-needs and complex patient population that can only be served through a public hospital system committed to serving all New Yorkers.

Highlights from the Three-Year Blueprint

Strategy 1: Restore and Maximize Inpatient Capacity  

After a year of diligent work, in January 2024, NYC Health + Hospitals met its goal of restoring all psychiatric beds that were closed for essential facility enhancements and to accommodate medical needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching nearly 1,000 beds that are staffed and ready to accept patients. Restoring beds represents a complex and wide-ranging effort, requiring collaboration from facilities, human resources, finance, nursing leadership and program leaders. NYC Health + Hospitals will continue:

  • Renovating behavioral health inpatient units.
  • Staffing all inpatient beds across the system to maximize capacity.

Strategy 2: Expand Outpatient Access

NYC Health + Hospitals aims to increase access by growing its outpatient staff, introducing process improvements to drive productivity and quality, and expanding services. Plans include:

  • Optimizing outpatient workflows to ensure a more efficient utilization of mental health professionals’ time and overall process.
  • Increasing the volume of outpatients served by at least 10%.

Strategy 3: Increase Services for Special Populations

Special populations – including individuals with co-occurring substance use disorders, intellectual or developmental disabilities; people experiencing homelessness; and children and adolescents – often require targeted interventions to address their cross-cutting psychiatric and social needs. New and expanded programs include:

  • A new systemwide comprehensive substance use training program to ensure that patients in all disciplines get assessment and treatment for Substance Use Disorder, funded through the Opioid Settlement Fund.
  • Establishing 16 school-based mental health clinics to provide additional services in schools across the city and provide connections to existing outpatient services.
  • Opening an Extended Care Unit at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst to connect complex-need psychiatric patients with additional treatment and housing, the third such unit systemwide.

Strategy 4: Enhance Social Work, Care Management and Peer Services

Social workers, case managers, and peer counselors are charged with ensuring the continuity of care through ongoing engagement of patients, facilitating access to appropriate health care and social services, and supporting recovery. NYC Health + Hospitals will:

  • Expand its Care Management workforce with an emphasis on supporting the social determinants of health, including food and housing insecurity, and deepening their training focused on behavioral health.
  • Introduce a Social Work Training Academy to standardize training across the social work discipline at NYC Health + Hospitals for all 1,000+ social workers, strengthening practice and patient outcomes.

Strategy 5: Prevent Violence and Increase Safety

Improving workplace safety to prevent patient and staff injuries and promote employee well-being in psychiatric settings is a systemwide priority. Violence prevention programs have demonstrated the ability to increase patient safety, employee satisfaction, and staff retention. The health system will:

  • Continue building a culture of safety and train staff in key areas such as screening and assessment of high-risk patients, de-escalation techniques, trauma-informed approaches, and violence prevention.

Strategy 6: Develop the Health System’s Workforce

In light of a nationwide shortage of behavioral health staff, NYC Health + Hospitals will invest in programs to recruit, train and retain the staff critical to the operations of New York City’s largest behavioral health provider.

Plans include:

  • Loan repayment for behavioral health providers and staff in exchange for a commitment to serve the health system for three years.
  • Launching a first-ever Psychiatric Physician Assistance Career Pathways Program to improve system capacity with specialized training for physician assistants including behavioral health didactics, clinical rotations, and tuition assistance.
  • Introducing telepsychiatry in psychiatric emergency and inpatient settings to mitigate critical workforce capacity issues, decrease wait time, and rapidly stabilize patients.

Today’s announcement builds on work over the past two years to expand and develop behavioral health services at NYC Health + Hospitals, including opening a new Extended Care Unit at Kings County Hospital; offering behavioral health services on Virtual ExpressCare, the health system’s telehealth service; announcing plans to open a Family Substance Use Disorder clinic at Lincoln Hospital; opening two new clinics and additional expanded services for people experiencing domestic violence; granting behavioral health staff $1 million in debt relief in exchange for 3 years of service; training people with lived experience to become certified peer counselors; and appointing a new head of behavioral health at NYC Health + Hospitals early last year.

NYC Health + Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public 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

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