At Urban Upbound: Find a Job and a Greater Peace of Mind
Written by Felix Alarcon, Programs & Partnerships Manager
As New York City comes to grips with how to approach the growing mental health crisis, some city programs and organizations like Urban Upbound have begun to lay the foundations for a possible solution — increasing access to mental health with wraparound support.
One such program takes a multi-pronged approach in providing job opportunities and mental health screenings/resources for their clients.
The Jobs-Plus program, touted as one of the most successful New York City jobs programs to help residents find a job — serves as a road back to stability and mobility for residents. Findings from the Urban Institute show that New Yorkers participating in the Jobs-Plus program for one year, saw a 72% increase in employment and a 32% boost in earnings. Since 2013, the program has connected nearly 9,000 NYCHA residents with job placements. The program has expanded to bring mental health support to 6,000+ Jobs-Plus participants.
Corwin Mason, the Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator at the Queensbridge office at Urban Upbound, regularly screens clients for mental health needs, offers support, and connects clients to local health providers when needed.
“I’ve noticed that people are stressed out since they’re out of work,” said Corwin. “Covid-19 was a big factor in this. People are uncertain and it takes a toll on their mind. We try to build a relationship and offer a positive outlook for them.”
In the recently published report “Addressing the state of behavioral health in New York City” from McKinsey & Company, the findings highlight NYC’s economic disparities in diverse populations and access to mental health support.
“McKinsey research has highlighted the inequities and barriers to economic inclusion for racial and ethnic minorities and for immigrants. These populations face higher [mental health] challenges and lower access to quality care. Individuals reporting that they have been diagnosed with mental health conditions also report higher rates of experiencing isolation, burnout at work, and negative perceptions of their current mental state.”
A few miles down the road at the Urban Upbound Jobs-Plus Astoria office, Latasha Barnaby, the Clinical and Wellness Coordinator shared some of the challenges residents faced.
“There’s still a stigma about mental health in our community,” said Latasha. “I try not to use the term [too directly]. I’m mindful of our language when this comes up. Most of our clients are learning about the mental health component [for the first time] through our services and through meeting with them weekly. We talk about goals and discuss their stressors. These are challenges that can get in the way of their livelihood, if not addressed. Education is a big component.”
Both health coordinators emphasized a focus on empathy and offering a space for the clients in the program to share their experiences and struggles. This has allowed clients to seek the support they need for their health and stay employed. The holistic approach offers a way for the community to receive the support it needs. The health coordinators also raise awareness on overall health and well-being, from physicals, nutritionists and distributing Covid-19 testing kits.
When asked about the program’s impact and success with the community, Corwin said, “When you’re at your best, you can accomplish anything.”
Urban Upbound strives in partnership with the City to enhance mental health equity and economic mobility.