D.A. Bragg Awards $3 Million to the Fortune Society in Ongoing Mental Health Investments

October 16, 2023

 With These Court Navigators, Manhattan D.A.’s Office Has Now Awarded $9 Million in Grants to Address Mental Health and Substance Use Crisis  

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., today awarded $3 million to The Fortune Society, an organization that supports reentry and alternative-to-incarceration services, to create a network of Court Navigators that will support New Yorkers with deeply entrenched needs. Court Navigators from The Fortune Society will build trusting relationships with individuals arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court who may have a mental illness or substance use disorder. The aim of these upfront investments is to reach those involved in the criminal justice system at the earliest possible moment to address the underlying drivers of crime and violence and reduce recidivism. Consistent with similar programs successfully funded by the Office and as outlined in the solicitation process, engagement will be voluntary. The program is separate from any existing court-mandated programming and provides a new layer of supplement support to individuals who are often released to the community without any services. 

The announcement follows a $6 million award to The Bridge to create a network of Neighborhood Navigators, which will prioritize individuals spending significant time on the street in Manhattan and brings the Office’s mental health investments to a total of $9 million. 

“Through these investments we are creating a continuum of care for Manhattanites struggling with mental health or substance use disorders that will create lasting public safety,” said District Attorney Bragg. “The best way to address the root drivers of crime and violence is to connect people with the services they need to lead healthy and stable lives, including housing, healthcare and job opportunities. The Fortune Society has been deeply immersed in the fabric of New York City for decades with a proven track record of delivering successful reentry and alternative to incarceration services, and I could not be more thrilled that they will be leading this work.” 

“This generous award from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. marks a pivotal moment in our ongoing mission to support reentry, working further upstream in the criminal legal system. It will empower The Fortune Society to create a network of Court Navigators, individuals with lived experience, dedicated to forging crucial connections with persons released into the community from Manhattan Court. These individuals may be grappling with food and/or housing insecurity, mental illness or substance use disorders, and will be offered voluntary services to meet those needs,” said Stanley Richards, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of The Fortune Society. “This investment reflects a visionary approach to address the underlying drivers of crime and violence at their root, aiming to reduce recidivism and create a safer, more supportive community. We are grateful for District Attorney Bragg’s commitment to creating a continuum of care for Manhattanites facing a host of immediate and long-term needs. Together with our court and community partners, we are dedicated to making a meaningful impact, helping individuals lead healthier, more stable lives.” 

The Fortune Society will staff Manhattan Criminal Court arraignment parts with navigators seven days a week during the court’s operating hours from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Working with community groups, service providers and court system partners, Court Navigators will rapidly engage individuals at an early intercept of the criminal justice system, build relationships and trust, and eventually connect them with long-term services, such as behavioral health treatment or supportive housing. 

The Fortune Society will leverage its deep experience operating alternative-to-incarceration programming and other services for justice-involved individuals to employ, train, and support Court Navigators with relevant lived experience such as prior criminal justice system involvement, history of behavioral health needs, or housing insecurity. The Manhattan D.A.’s Office is providing this award after a competitive solicitation process through its Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (“CJII”), which was created with millions of dollars seized from major banks in the course of criminal investigations. 

“I applaud the continued commitment of D.A. Alvin Bragg to equity, fairness, empowerment and prevention in the administration of justice,” said State Senator Cordell Cleare. “The concept of Court Navigators is a unique and progressive one, and is designed to ensure that the underlying causes of crime are substantially addressed, giving individuals a chance to grow, learn and prosper.  The entire Criminal Justice Investment Initiative continues to have my complete support!” 

State Senator Robert Jackson said, “Mental health is essential for individual and public health. And it calls for a multi-pronged approach promoting prevention, intervention, and treatment of disease to address this. With the announcement of DA Bragg’s new initiative to address mental health and substance abuse issues, New Yorkers with needs will be connected to services and help. I commend District Attorney Alvin Bragg for his comprehensive approach to making us safer and for making these critical investments that will help break the cycle of recidivism and incarceration.” 

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said, “New York is in the midst of a mental health crisis thanks to decades of disinvestment in services and institutions, which contributes to crime, disorder, and homelessness. We’re finally turning the tide, and I was proud to vote for over $1 billion of investments in health care in this year’s state budget. I’m thankful that D.A. Bragg is also working hard to invest in mental health care and alternatives-to-incarceration, and this grant to the Fortune society will provide critical services that will help our most vulnerable constituents.” 

“Today’s commitment from D.A. Bragg to The Fortune Society reinforces the vital need to address the root causes of criminal behavior — mental health and substance use disorders. By investing in Court Navigators, we’re not only bridging a gap in our criminal justice system but also building trust, fostering connections, and ensuring that those arraigned receive the timely support they need. This is a progressive step towards a holistic approach in our justice system, ensuring that individuals aren’t merely processed, but understood and guided towards better futures. We applaud The Fortune Society’s long standing dedication to reentry and alternative-to-incarceration services. Together, we’re envisioning a Manhattan where every individual is provided the tools and care necessary to thrive,” said Assemblymember Al Taylor

“It is essential that we reach individuals who are involved in the justice system with the support they need as early and often as possible, from mental health services and housing to employment opportunities. I’m grateful to D.A. Bragg, who’s investment today is major step forward in efforts to effectively get at the root causes of crime and recidivism,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “And I’ve seen the Fortune Society at work, and am glad that they will be there to help provide a continuum of care that we so badly need in Manhattan Criminal Court.” 

“District Attorney Bragg’s investment represents an incredible opportunity to forge crucial connections among Manhattan’s residents, ensuring they have access to the vital services necessary for maintaining their well-being and leading stable lives, said Diana Ayala, Deputy Speaker of the New York City Council. “By providing the appropriate mental health services and addressing the issue at its core, this initiative will undoubtedly offer valuable assistance to the many New Yorkers who are working to rebuild their lives.” 

“Launching the innovative Court Navigator program was smart. Selecting Fortune Society as a provider was even smarter,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “It is difficult to think of a worse place than Rikers Island for people suffering with mental illness or a better organization than Fortune Society to provide alternatives. Thank you DA Bragg and Fortune CEO Stanley Richards for your commitment to reducing recidivism through timely and direct support services.” 

“Our vulnerable communities need support and consistent investment to produce positive results in the face of a mental health and substance abuse crisis. We are proud to support DA Bragg’s investment in the Fortune Society’s supportive programming that will aid in recidivism reduction and effective reintegration. This is what proactive public safety looks like,” said Councilmember Carmen De La Rosa.

About The Fortune Society 

Founded in 1967, The Fortune Society has advocated on criminal justice issues for over five decades and is nationally recognized for developing model programs that help people with criminal justice histories to be assets to their communities. Fortune offers a holistic and integrated “one-stop-shopping” model of service provision. Among the services offered are discharge planning, licensed outpatient substance abuse and mental health treatment, alternatives to incarceration, HIV/AIDS services, career development and job retention, education, family services, drop-in services, and supportive housing as well as lifetime access to aftercare. Fortune has a dual mission of services and advocacy. We use what we learn from our justice impacted staff and leadership and from the people we serve about the obstacles that people with criminal histories face to inform and fuel our advocacy work.