As the mayoral primary nears, labor unions are taking sides over New York’s future.
While standing in front of the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center in Brooklyn, officials at the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) endorsed Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for mayor on Monday. The union cited his focus on making the city safe via mental illness programs and services.
CSEA represents mental health workers at New York State psychiatric hospitals.
Lester Crockett, president of CSEA Metro Region President, said Adams “understands the many challenges this city is now facing. His life experiences and accomplishments make him by far the best candidate to move our city forward. He will be ready on day one and will not need on-the-job training…in order for the public to feel safe we need a comprehensive mental health policy that makes sure those people suffering from severe mental illness get the help and services they need.”
Adams accepted CSEA’s endorsement.
“The women and men of CSEA kept New York running during the height of the pandemic, and are there for New Yorkers every single day year-in and year-out,” Adams said. “I am so honored to have the support of CSEA members, who understand what it takes to make New York go and the value of hard work.”
Adams and CSEA called for New York’s state government to provide care for the mentally ill and for City Hall to expedite mental illness programs for treatment and response to crises. According to the union, since 2014, New York City has seen a 17% reduction in adult psychiatric beds and a 45% reduction in children’s beds.
“The mental health services provided by CSEA members and others are extremely critical right now in light of the increase in crimes in which a New Yorker or visitor was attacked on the street or in the subway by someone with a mental illness,” said Adams. “We must immediately increase the number of city mental health beds and workers to effectively and swiftly address this crime problem, make New Yorkers feel safe again, and create a welcoming city that will attract visitors and new investment.”
According to the New York State Health Foundation, three times more people reported anxiety and depression after the start of the pandemic. The proportion of New Yorkers reporting poor mental health reached 30 percent of adults last October. Among low-income, young and people of color in the city, the mental health issues are higher
Much of the push for more services could be attributed to May being Mental Health Awareness Month. Mary Sullivan, president of CSEA said that New Yorkers need to push elected officials to help them reach their goal of more mental health treatment services.
“The pandemic created an increase in the need for mental health care in our state,” Sullivan said in a statement. “New Yorkers endured so many hardships. People lost their loved ones, their jobs, their homes. The stress, anxiety and depression induced from this crisis and the isolation it caused is real and cannot be ignored.”
Adams called for the strengthening of Kendra’s Law, which deploys trained mental health workers to the subways, where crime’s become the main topic of conversation, and other high-trafficked areas of the city. He also called for more supportive housing for the mentally ill.