Fund for the City of New York
Special Projects Fund
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.