Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

Fund for the City of New York

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

January 2019

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

October 2016-December 2017

At least one in five New Yorkers will experience a mental health disorder in any given year. Frontline staff at community-based organizations (CBOs) report that many clients often appear depressed or anxious, which they suspect may interfere with clients’ ability to succeed in programs.

However, with limited mental health training, staff members at these organizations are unprepared to deal with clients’ emotional and/or behavioral problems.

In response, New York City unveiled its ThriveNYC initiative, with a plan to overhaul mental health services. A key component is Connections To Care (C2C), a public-private partnership that aims to build the mental illness prevention and treatment capacity of CBOs that work in the areas of workforce development, education, and early childhood services.

New York City received a $10 million grant (over 5 years) from the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF) to advance parts of the ThriveNYC initiative. $6 million of the SIF funds would support C2C as it tested the integration of evidence-based mental health services into CBOs serving at-risk populations, which included low-income expectant mothers and parents of children up to four years old; out-of-work, out-of-school young adults ages 16–24; and unemployed and underemployed adults age 18 and older. Through the SIF grant, each CBO would receive between $100,000 and $200,000 per year over five years. Per a SIF grant requirement, the CBOs (and the City itself) were required to raise 1:1 matching funds each year.

Given the importance of mental health services and because many of the CBOs were current or former grantees, NYSHealth was interested in supporting their efforts in fulfilling the 1:1 match. However, doing so raised a dilemma: the SIF grant’s 1:1 fundraising requirement created potentially competing interests between the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the CBOs. Awarding 15 separate grants to each of the participating CBOs would pose a challenge in accountability and grants management. At the same time, making a grant directly to the Mayor’s Fund posed different challenges—mainly, tracking one relatively small grant within a $6 million government initiative and one where NYSHealth would have little oversight ability.

After much consideration, a novel idea was developed: NYSHealth would identify an independent entity that could serve as a fiscal agent. This organization would be responsible for disseminating grant funds to each of the 15 CBOs and overseeing the performance of the subrecipients. Furthermore, establishing a centralized funding mechanism made it much easier for us to attract funding partners.

The Fund for the City of New York, an entity independent of New York City government, was selected by NYSHealth for its experience playing this type of role. The Fund established a C2C funding pool, which would streamline the funding mechanism and administer any grants coming from NYSHealth and others. The Altman Foundation joined us as a funding partner and contributed directly to the C2C pool to support CBOs.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Successfully trained more than 1,000 staff in at least one of the four C2C evidence-based mental health skills: screenings, motivational interviewing, mental health first aid, and psychoeducation.
  • Provided services to more than 9,000 individuals through C2C mental health skills or referrals, putting C2C on track to surpass its goal of 15,000 participants by the end of the first three years.
  • Referred 85% of patients who screened positive for a mental health condition for treatment by the end of the first year.
  • Found that 62% of individuals who received a mental health referral completed it within the first 6 months of program services.
  • Worked with the RAND Corporation and New York University’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research to evaluate job placement and retention, educational attainment, and housing stability in C2C participants identified with a mental health condition.
  • Collaborated with the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity to collect impact and cost evaluation data and identify similar sites for impact evaluation comparison.

Under this grant, C2C paired mental health providers with CBOs to screen clients for mental health conditions. The 15 CBOs represent organizations that serve children, youth, families, LBGTQ New Yorkers, Latinos, African Americans, Arab Americans, and immigrants, and provide services that address early childhood development, workforce/employment, re-entry from incarceration, homelessness, and domestic violence. Clients who screened positive for a mental health condition were then referred for treatment or clinical care. C2C instructed CBO staff members on four core evidence-based mental health skills: mental health first aid, motivational interviewing, screenings, and psychoeducation. The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and technical assistance partners ensured that trainings delivered to the CBOs met industry quality standards. C2C worked with the CBOs to ensure practices and techniques are integrated into existing services and the organizational culture at these agencies.

Building on the success of this project, NYSHealth awarded the Fund for the City of New York a second grant in 2017 to continue this initiative. The Altman Foundation also continued its support, and the Ameringen Foundation came on board as an additional funding partner.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: The Altman Foundation provided $200,000 in co-funding for this initial project. NYSHealth’s support also provided the matching funds needed for participating CBOs to meet grant requirements from the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF). SIF awarded C2C a $6 million grant in 2015, helping CBOs to continue serving low-income New Yorkers.