Mental Health

How OnPoint NYC Provides Barrier-Free Mental Health Care for our Community

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – and mental health care is particularly important for our community.  A NIH national study on comorbidity found that nearly 38% of adults with substance use challenges had mental health conditions as well, and that the majority do not seek treatment due to numerous barriers. 

Mental health treatment can be difficult to access in the best of circumstances – and the people in OnPoint NYC’s core community, who use drugs and/or engage in sex work, face additional forms of marginalization by our country’s healthcare system. Many mental health providers are expensive, requiring high out-of-pocket costs, or do not take Medicaid or other low-cost insurance providers. It can be hard to schedule convenient appointments, language barriers can pose difficulty, and providers often require documentation that can be difficult for those in unstable living situations to provide. Even without these issues, those in our community are also often reluctant to seek help, given the history of discrimination, stigmatization, and judgment often perpetuated by doctors. 

Responding to this need, OnPoint NYC has established drop-in mental health services to remove these barriers, so our community has access to vital care and support. 

These services operate each weekday during business hours – 8:30AM – 4:30PM – at our East Harlem and Washington Heights locations. No appointments are required: participants simply let the front desk know that they are interested in seeing a counselor, and someone is often there to assist them almost immediately. Additionally, if participants are interested in psychiatric evaluation, counselors can provide connections to our psychiatric nurse practitioners, who are available on-site most weekdays in East Harlem and on Tuesdays in the Heights. 

“This removes barriers because you can often see someone within a few minutes (instead of having to set up an appointment in advance), we don’t charge so you never need to worry about paying for a mental health visit, there are very few limits on therapy (so a person could come every day we provide services), and we have staff providing services in English and Spanish,” says Cooper Wilheim, one of our Harm Reduction Mental Health Counselors. 

“We address everything, from helping folks who are in crisis to helping folks who just want to sit down and talk about what’s going on in their lives,” says Cooper. By utilizing an array of modalities of treatment (including cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, narrative therapy, object relations, and more – all through a harm-reduction lens) our staff can provide care that is relevant, culturally-competent, and targeted to the needs of each person – helping to create a trusting and effective relationship with our neighbors. 

“We’re here to help people figure out their goals for themselves and how to reach them, not to tell people what they “should” do.” shares Cooper. “Everyone is different, but we’ve definitely seen folks we’ve worked with achieve greater stability and peace of mind.”

Our East Harlem location will be closing early at 8:30pm on Wed 5/1 and Fri 5/3. Our Washington Heights location will be open on our regular schedule.

No One Has To Die of An Overdose.

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