Most NYC shelters don’t offer needed mental health services: records

Fewer than half of the Big Apple’s specialized shelters meant to help the chronically homeless — just 18 out of 41 facilities — can offer on-site mental health services to needy clients, The Post has found.

The rate of availability in other parts of New York City’s oft-criticized shelter system was even lower at the end of 2020, the most recent period covered by the records reviewed, which provide an inventory of services offered in city shelters.

Just nine of the city’s 247 shelters for families with children offer mental health services on-site — a rate of less than 4 percent.

Things are scarcely better in the city’s embattled barracks-style shelters for single adults, where just 40 of the 191 facilities reported providing clients with counseling and treatment at their location.

“It’s essential that every shelter – whether it’s for families and children or single adults – has access to mental health services,” said former city councilman Stephen Levin, who served as chairman of the General Welfare committee for eight years before exiting under the Big Apple’s term limits law.

Just 18 out of 41 specialized homeless shelters had on-site mental health services available.Christopher Sadowski

Mayor Eric Adams acknowledged the importance of providing those services in his initial January plan to tackle the crisis on city subways.

It promised a slew of new services would be provided or expanded, including: “[i]ncorporating medical services into DHS sites serving individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness,” officials wrote in bold type in the 17-page plan.

“DHS Safe Havens and Stabilization bed programs will offer on-site physical and behavioral health care to immediately address clients’ needs,” the document added.

Mayor Eric Adams' plan to tackle subway homelessness emphasized the need for mental health counseling at DHS sites.Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to tackle subway homelessness emphasized the need for mental health counseling at DHS sites.Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Homeless Services is required to compile and provide the statistics every September for the preceding year by City Council legislation. former city councilman Stephen Levin was lead sponsor of the measure.

The tally includes shelters that offer homeless New Yorkers “on-site behavioral health and medical services,” including psychiatric assessment, medication and therapy in both individual and group settings.

“There’s enough programs in this city to make that achievable. It’s going to require close coordination with mental health service providers throughout the city, whether that’s through hospitals or programs,” Levin added. “It cannot be just a referral. There has to be a service delivery plan for every shelter.”

Former city councilman Stephen Levin, who served as served as chairman of the General Welfare committee, said that it is essential for every shelter to have mental health services available.Former city councilman Stephen Levin, who served as chairman of the General Welfare Committee, said that it is essential for every shelter to have mental health services available.Stefan Jeremiah for New York Post

DHS Commissioner Gary Jenkins defended his department’s efforts in a statement but did not directly address the lack of services in the shelters themselves.

“DHS is committed to providing high quality mental health services to all our clients,” he said. “As clients go through the shelter system, our agency is ready to help them gain access to short-term mental health services if it is deemed necessary by staff.”