The Bridge’s Peer Navigators Will Directly Reach New Yorkers with Deeply Entrenched Mental Health and Substance Use Needs
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., today awarded nearly $6 million to The Bridge, a peer-founded housing and behavioral health services provider, to create a network of Neighborhood Navigators that will build a network of support to immediately reach New Yorkers with deeply entrenched needs. Neighborhood Navigators from The Bridge will build trusting relationships with individuals who may have a mental illness or substance use disorder that are living or spending significant time on the street in Manhattan priority areas determined by community feedback. The award comes after a competitive solicitation process launched in December and conducted in partnership with the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (“ISLG”). Consistent with similar programs successfully funded by the Office and as outlined in the solicitation process, engagement with all of these programs will be voluntary.
“By addressing fundamental needs like access to a safe home and mental health care, we can improve public safety in our communities,” said District Attorney Bragg. “While New York has an extensive array of governmental and community-based service providers, individuals with the most deeply entrenched mental health issues often lack the trust in these systems to even try and access them. Meeting people where they are and building trust is the best way towards long-term solutions for these individuals and the communities in which they reside. The Bridge exemplifies what Neighborhood Navigators are all about: peers with lived experience meeting New Yorkers where they are and helping to lift them up, connecting them to the help they need. I know this investment in The Bridge is an investment in New Yorkers, their mental health, their safety, and their future.”
ISLG Executive Director Michael Jacobson said, “To effectively help our fellow New Yorkers who are spending significant time on the street, we need people who understand what they’re going through. Neighborhood Navigators taps into the knowledge of people with lived experience to create pathways to our City’s rich – but often hard-to-navigate – landscape of social services. We’re proud to work with the Manhattan DA and The Bridge on this important work that seeks to help people reach their full potential and avoid the criminal legal system.”
“The Bridge is thrilled to have been selected for this exciting new program,” said CEO Susan Wiviott. “We believe that this effort will significantly enhance our ability to help people living on the street who have difficulty engaging with service providers, and will complement and strengthen our work with people who have a serious mental illness or substance use disorder. We look forward to working with the communities that are part of this program. I am grateful to DA Bragg for making this program a priority and for the opportunity he has given The Bridge.”
Neighborhood Navigators Awardee: The Bridge
The Bridge was founded in 1954 by former long-term residents of a psychiatric hospital. Today, it provides housing and behavioral health services to more than 4,000 New Yorkers each year with more than 40 programs in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn.
The 3 ½-year Neighborhood Navigators initiative begins with a six-month planning-period seeking the input of community groups, NYPD precincts, and nine neighborhoods within four focus areas:
- Lower East Side/Chinatown
- Chelsea / Hell’s Kitchen / Midtown West
- Central/East Harlem
- Washington Heights/Inwood
Peer specialists with lived experience will build trust and engage with individuals who are unhoused and do not engage with service providers. Working with community groups and law enforcement, staff will identify individuals who are unhoused and take the time to build a trusting relationship with them, opening up the possibility of connecting them with services and possibly housing. The Neighborhood Navigators will help these individuals maneuver through complex bureaucratic governmental and social services that are difficult to navigate for people seeking the help they need. The Bridge will partner with community-based organizations including the Manhattan Mobile Outreach Consortium, ACMH, CASES, Services for the Underserved, and Ryan Health, which will provide complementary services including behavioral health and medical treatment, supportive housing, health home care management, and more.
The Manhattan D.A.’s Office is providing this award through its Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (“CJII”), which was created with millions of dollars seized from major banks in the course of criminal investigations and is administered by the CUNY ISLG.
The Office is currently reviewing proposals for the second element of its mental health investments, an award of up to $3 million to place Court-Based navigators in Criminal Court arraignment parts. The Court-Based Navigator program will be rooted in principles of peer mentoring models, rapid engagement, system navigation, and other evidence-based practices. The program will enhance public safety by increasing outreach and engagement with individuals at an early intercept of the criminal justice system by rapidly engaging individuals at arraignments to meet participants’ immediate needs and continue to serve directly in their communities to address longer-term underlying needs.
Court-Based Navigators will also work to provide warm handoffs to community-based navigators and/or providers, as needed. Services may include emergency assistance (i.e., food and clothing assistance), or connection to more comprehensive wraparound social services including behavioral health treatment, supportive housing, economic empowerment, and other services tailored to the individual needs of the participant.
The Office expects to announce the recipients of these grants in late 2023.