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EDITORIAL: Help kids thrive: A cost-effective investment could address mental health problems smartly

The New York Daily News - 6/10/2019

Jun. 10--Since Mayor de Blasio's Thrive NYC, the mental health program run by First Lady Chirlane McCray, is projected to spend upwards of a $1 billion with somewhat nebulous goals (and we're being generous here), doesn't it make sense to allocate a small slice of that to getting a full-time social worker in every public school?

That's a good question raised by the city's Independent Budget Office, which estimates it would cost $94.4 million to put social workers in the 716 schools that are without, which is nearly half (44%) of all the schools in the city.

The IBO number-crunching was done at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who isn't picky about where the money comes from.

The biggest problem with Thrive is its failure effectively to address people with serious, often debilitating mental illness.

But if the objective is mental wellness, social workers are the first line of defense, spotting troubled youth and steering them towards treatment. Which makes it strange that the mayor cut 69 social workers assigned to aiding homeless students in his budget proposal. A savings of $13.9 million seems out of place for an administration that talks up its commitment to mental health.

We're not clamoring to add $100 million in new city spending, but rather a reordering of money that's already going out the door. There are 1.1 million students enrolled in the public schools; providing all of them with such a basic service as a social worker sounds like a sane investment.

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