Improving the lives of families and individuals in NYC affected by mental illness requires our government to be champions for legislation that impacts the mental health system.

We believe that’s worth fighting for.

When we bring the perspective of the family AND the person living with mental illness directly to policymakers, we educate elected officials to prioritize policy decisions that ensure quality services, and enhance recovery for the mental health community in New York.

Communicate with our NYC mayoral candidates

Tweet #1
Whoever NYC’s next mayor is, they must make a commitment to end the criminalization of mental illness. @NYCMayorsOffice proposed $112 million for #BehavioralHealthCrisisAlternatives next fiscal year, but we need a peer-led response NOW. #TheMeYouCantSee

Tweet #2
Police officers are not suited to handle mental health crises, and evidence-based community and peer support alternatives already exist in practice. It’s up to city leadership to implement them. #FundCAHOOTSinNYC #TheMeYouCantSee

Tweet #3
A commitment to public safety means a commitment to the safety of people experiencing mental health crises. @WhiteBirdClinic #TheMeYouCantSee

Who’s in?

Tweet #4
A commitment to public health is a commitment to an appropriate mental health crisis response, and that response should include #PEERS. #FundCAHOOTSinNYC #TheMeYouCantSee

Decriminalizing Mental Illness – An Urgent Issue Briefing

The current Mayor has proposed $112 million for New York City to implement a citywide mental health crisis response system in 2022. However, it will be up to the new leadership to decide what such a system will look like. Join us to learn what leading experts, family advocates, and peers envision for this funding and crisis response mechanism.

Approximately 60% of individuals in the prison and jail systems live with a diagnosable mental illness, and most find out for the first time after they have been incarcerated. This is completely unjust. One of NAMI-NYC’s advocacy goals is to promote non-police response to mental health crises calls across the city, including the implementation of a 988 number, and peer-led response teams, to prevent this issue.

Panelists discuss the root causes of the over-criminalization of people living with mental illness, especially Black and brown individuals. We delve into the issues of broken windows policing around the city and within NYCHA housing, bias and discrimination in non-peers responding to crises calls, the mental health care infrastructure needed to respond to crises calls around the city, as well as other crucial topics regarding mental health and decriminalization. Our goal is to have audience members act to ensure that our new leadership knows how to appropriately address these issues across the city.

Our panelists:

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Cosponsored by the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), Correct Crisis Intervention Today-NYC (CCIT-NYC), Community Access, and others.

Watch the replay here

Apply to our Advocacy Ambassador program

Join the fight for better mental health services in NYC and share your story with elected officials!
The NAMI-NYC Advocacy Ambassador program provides families and individuals impacted by mental illness with the skills and training needed to meet with elected officials and create change in their communities.

Sharing your lived experience with an elected official in your area is an important way to make a difference in the life of your loved one or yourself. Meeting with policymakers gives you the opportunity to directly voice your concerns, and shows legislators that voters care about improving the lives of families and individuals impacted by mental illness. By getting involved in mental health advocacy work with NAMI-NYC, you can help shape legislation and build power in the NYC mental health community.

Ambassadors will participate in a training series that teaches best practices for meeting with elected officials and building the relationships required to achieve policy wins. After their training, Advocacy Ambassadors will be champions for policy that impacts the mental health of New Yorkers in their communities, and working together with NAMI-NYC staff, will be responsible for making sure elected officials in their area are informed about and supportive of important mental health issues. Ambassadors are also dedicated to building grassroots power by assisting friends, family, and other community members with contacting their own elected officials, and explaining the importance of supporting policies that will allow families and individuals impacted by mental illness to live their best lives.

NAMI-NYC Policy Priorities


NAMI-NYC is firmly committed to enacting policies that increase access to mental health services, and improve the quality of those services.

We believe in a person-centered approach to healthcare to assist people living with mental illness. Integral to the goal of person-centered healthcare is the ability for people living with a mental illness to access the most appropriate treatments to advance their specific recovery. Healthcare projects NAMI-NYC supports include:

Keep Allen Psychiatric Hospital open

Allen Psychiatric Hospital provides crucial mental health services to the Washington Heights-Inwood neighborhoods, which is an underserved area of NYC. Closing this psych unit would remove a severely needed mental health resource, and would only exacerbate our city’s mental health crisis. We support keeping Allen Psych hospital open, and increasing funding for psychiatric hospitals.

New York Health Act

The New York Health Act would create a single-payer healthcare system for New York, eliminating the power of insurance companies to dictate treatment, and providing healthcare access for the uninsured as well. NAMI-NYC supports the New York Health Act, as it will provide cheaper, easier to access, mental healthcare for all New Yorkers.


NAMI-NYC supports integrating mental health education into our educational system so we can increase understanding about mental illness, and give students and educators the tools needed to support themselves and their peers with mental health challenges.

Education is a critical instrument in fighting mental health stigma and creating healthier communities. Education projects NAMI-NYC supports include:

Bill A5313/S5704

This bill provides teachers with mental health training so they know the signs of common mental health conditions. Students often spend more time at school than at home, and the amount of time teachers spend with their students puts them on the front lines of childhood mental health. It’s important we give teachers the tools they need to identify and support students who have a mental illness. Through direct connection with local elected officials, and through the hard work of our Advocacy Ambassadors, NAMI-NYC is committed to make this bill become a reality. We urge the legislature to pass A5313/S5704.

Criminal Justice

NAMI-NYC is dedicated to working with families and communities to enact policies that divert people living with a mental illness from the criminal justice system and towards recovery.

Further, we support improving our criminal justice system, to help ensure the best outcomes for people living with a mental illness who enter or exit the system. Criminal Justice projects NAMI-NYC supports include:

Diversion Centers

Diversion Centers would create an alternative to arrest for people suffering from substance abuse or a mental health episode by creating “health diversion centers” where individuals can get short-term treatment until they are stable. We believe the creation of health diversion centers can be a key step in helping shift people living with a mental illness away from the criminal justice system and towards recovery. NAMI-NYC supports increased funding for these centers so they can finally open and begin their important work. We also are committed to ensuring these diversion centers emphasize treatment and recovery.

Mental Health Courts

Mental health courts were established to improve the response of the criminal justice system to individuals with serious mental illness who committed low-level non-violent offenses. Their goal is to reduce the  incarceration and recidivism of these individuals by linking offenders to local behavioral health science providers to develop individualized treatment plans, under intensive supervision by the courts. To participate, one must plead guilty to the charges pressed against them. We believe the use of mental health courts is vital to properly treat the mental illnesses underlying some criminal offenses, rather than further deteriorating one’s mental health by placing them in jail or prison. NAMI-NYC supports the improved use of these courts, especially those that accept defendants with Axis I diagnoses, PTSD, and substance use disorders. We are committed to promoting awareness about these courts as an alternative to typical criminal proceedings to better the lives of those suffering from mental illness in the criminal justice system.

Have questions? Email our manager of public policy and advocacy.

Real stories from real people make real change.

NAMI-NYC is dedicated to making sure elected officials and other decision makers hear directly from families and individuals impacted by mental illness.

Please click here to share your story with us, to help policymakers understand why mental healthcare needs to be a top priority.