What New York’s schoolchildren really need now, Mayor Bill de Blasio told the city on Monday, is . . . a mental-health quiz and more social workers. Yes, the mayor is tripling down on his wife’s ThriveNYC initiative, with an all-new, ill-defined focus on counseling for students struggling emotionally with the pandemic.
This latest hare-brained program will cover 27 neighborhoods hit hard by the virus and hire up to 150 social workers who can follow up on woes uncovered by those quizzes.
Naturally, the city’s First Couple provided few details, such as a timeline or costs. Pressed on funding details, de Blasio blustered: “Whatever it takes, we’re going to make it a budget priority. Even if it means we have to reduce spending in other areas.” ThriveNYC has already burned $1.2 billion in taxpayer cash, with nothing to show for it.
Meanwhile, the city flinches from any focus on serious mental illness — even as the pandemic and lockdowns have added dire new stresses to the many cases among the street population, and left a few of them posing a clear public menace, including a spike in subway-pushers.
But administering quizzes is so much easier, though a five-question screening will do little to ID kids in serious mental-health trouble. Many children surely are depressed by this crisis, but it’s nuts to make that a priority when the city faces a a $3.8 billion budget shortfall amid falling tax revenues.
Just last year, the mayor, First Lady Chirlane McCray and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza unveiled the “Resilient Kids, Safer Schools” Initiative that was to give students the tools needed to “name their emotions, overcome conflicts and repair relationships.” They should prove the success of that before daring to offer more.
The New Yorkers who need top priority are those suffering from schizophrenia, serious bipolar disorder and the like — not the depressed and anxious.
But, with barely a year left in office, de Blasio plainly figures it’s time to indulge his family’s hopes, rather than bother with the tragedies-in-waiting who walk the streets.