Jobs and economic opportunities were a central focus of Mayor Eric Adams’ State of the City address Thursday, including a slate of health care initiatives. In addition to seeking to expand employment in the health and biotech sectors, Adams also discussed efforts to bring people with mental health challenges and disabilities into the workforce.
Adams announced a new partnership with CUNY to help bolster the city’s nursing workforce as hospitals face challenges with recruiting and retaining full-time staff. Adams said the program aims to support 30,000 current and aspiring nurses over the next five years with training, mentorship and job placements.
“Nurses are the hands, heart and soul of our health care system,” Adams said in his address. “We will never forget you and we will continue to help you with the resources you need.”
City Hall did not respond to a request for comment on whether any funding is attached to the initiative.
Adams also announced the opening of a new biotech incubator in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The city will support that project with a $20 million investment, according to news outlet The City.
But health care jobs weren’t the mayor’s sole focus; his announcements also included job services to help those with disabilities and mental health issues.
Adams said the city will launch a new Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion that aims to help more than 2,500 New Yorkers with disabilities find jobs. He noted that only about a third of New Yorkers with disabilities are employed.
When Adams discussed mental health reforms – a topic he has been passionate about during his tenure – he focused on city efforts to expand access to clubhouses. These are community-based facilities for people with serious mental health issues that provide social support while also connecting people with educational and employment opportunities if they want them.
Before leaving office, former Mayor Bill de Blasio committed $4 million in city funding to expand clubhouse membership by at least 3,000 people. Adams said the city is now opening new clubhouses in the five boroughs. In his speech, Adams nodded to the city’s Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan, who took his position after serving as CEO of Fountain House, a Midtown-based clubhouse.
City Hall did not respond to a request for comment Thursday on where the new clubhouses will be located, when they will open or how much funding will be attached. Adams said he would elaborate on his mental health plan in the coming weeks.
Overall, Adams struck a softer note with regard to mental health reform on Thursday than he had in recent weeks. The mayor caught flak from some critics in November, when he announced that he was directing police and other homeless outreach workers to bring anyone who appeared unable to meet their own basic needs to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation — against their will, if necessary. That was a change from the previously accepted standard of reserving requests for involuntary hospitalization to those who posed a serious risk to themselves or others.
In his State of the City address, Adams only alluded to that initiative. “A few months ago, we laid out an initial approach for connecting the most severely mentally ill New Yorkers with needed care,” he said.
But in describing the city’s outreach work in the subways, Adams placed an emphasis on voluntary care and services. He shouted out Richard Arroyo, who coordinates the city’s Health Engagement and Assessment Teams.
“He says the most important thing is to look people in the eye, show them you see them as human beings, as equals,” Adams said of Arroyo. “They may not accept help the first time, but once they see city workers helping others, they’re willing to open up the lines of communication.”
It’s still unclear how much the city’s practices have actually changed since Adams announced his plan for involuntary mental health removals.