NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray Discusses Daughter's Mental Health, Announces New Initiative

Mayor de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, announced an initiative Wednesday to improve mental health services in the city, saying that mental illness should no longer be swept under the rug.

McCray said the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, which she heads, will team up with the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to develop "a more comprehensive and unified approach to mental illness."

She told attendees at a public health conference in Brooklyn that the partners will develop a "road map" for addressing mental health in the city and will release it this summer.

McCray touched on her own family's mental health issues, saying that both her parents experienced depression and noting that her college-age daughter, Chiara de Blasio, has struggled with depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

McCray said it was not easy to find a program for someone who is "no longer a child and not quite an adult" but added that Chiara is now "kicking butt at recovery" and working to help other young people dealing with similar challenges.

"Our family is lucky," McCray said. "We lead a comfortable life. And yet it was really hard for us to get our daughter appropriate help. So can you imagine what it must be like for the 46 percent of New Yorkers living at or near the poverty line? What is it like for a woman who speaks only Spanish? An African-American father living in Brownsville? A grandmother raising her grandchild? Or someone who was formerly incarcerated?"

McCray offered few details of what the road map for addressing mental health might look like but said it would "map the disparity in services that exists between groups and neighborhoods." She said that many communities "do not have access to good resources, and as a result their burden is greater."

The event marked a return for McCray to the public stage.

Her husband calls her his closest adviser, and for months she was a constant presence at his side. But her public profile diminished after her chief of staff, Rachel Noerdlinger, was ensnared in a series of controversies that eventually led her to resign.

McCray was largely out of sight during City Hall's recent battles with the police unions, in part because Noerdlinger's close ties to the Rev. Al Sharpton, a fierce NYPD critic, remained a flashpoint.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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