Mental Health Care is a Right in Red Hook

Considered a leader in innovative mental health approaches, RHI presented alongside First Lady of NYC, Chirlane McCray, at a recent United Nations conference.

For youth growing up in NYCHA’s Red Hook Houses, stressors of adolescence include more than homework assignments or making it to class on time. Living in Red Hook means facing instances of community violence, unhealthy living conditions, and limited local access to healthy food, transportation, and education. 

When it became clear that youth needed resources to cope with these stressors, Red Hook Initiative (RHI) began offering one-on-one counseling. Now through ThriveNYC’s Connections to Care (C2C) initiative, led by First Lady of NYC, Chirlane McCray, RHI offers acute care. The goal of C2C is to reimagine, strengthen, and expand mental health care in traditionally underserved communities. The three-year grant, awarded last March from The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, increased services onsite while partnering with NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers for more severe cases of mental illness.

In the past year, social workers spent hundreds of hours in counseling to ensure that teens and young adults were able to meet their personal and professional goals. 100% of youth struggling with mental health concerns receive much-needed care from RHI. Upon meeting a social worker, an RHI participant quickly overcame the stigma of seeking treatment. She reflected on the experience: “I’ve come to see myself as more mature, capable, resilient, and stronger as a person.” Over 90% of RHI Youth Leaders are on track to graduate from high school, and 80% of seniors plan to begin college this fall. 

March is National Social Work Month, and RHI proudly joins the city-wide and national conversation by providing essential mental health care to youth in Red Hook during the most formative years of their lives. The Connections to Care initiative at RHI is made possible by support from The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, The Simons Foundation, van Ameringen Foundation, and The Marion E. Kenworthy-Sarah H. Swift Foundation. We are grateful for their commitment to mental health care at RHI. 

Youth Mobilizing for Youth

“My summer matters”: a sign held by a NYC teen in Albany for Youth Action Day.


At 5am on a frosty winter morning, Red Hook Initiative’s (RHI) Youth Organizers boarded a bus bound for Albany. Despite the season, they were already thinking abo

ut summer jobs, and wanted their elected officials to do the same. Knowing firsthand what was at stake, the Youth Organizers urged their local representatives to allocate additional funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). Thanks to a city-wide effort coordinated by United Neighborhood Houses, RHI Youth Organizers joined hundreds of NYC teens in Albany for Youth Action Day. 

Each summer, with support from RHI staff, dozens of youth submit competitive applications for summer jobs paid for by the city-wide SYEP program. Before heading to Albany, Leslie – an RHI participant since middle school – considered how best to convey the importance of increasing funding for the program. Leslie pointed out that, “SYEP gives youth early job experience, responsibilities, and a chance to be independent and not reliant on their parents.”

By investing in Leslie and hundreds of Red Hook youth like her as early as middle school, RHI is able to provide critical academic support, leadership development, and employment opportunities. With RHI’s help, youth like Leslie are empowered to mobilize and advocate for their futures. 

Clint’s First Stop


Clint registered to vote at RHI as soon as he was eligible.

As soon as he heard the results, Clint came straight to Red Hook Initiative (RHI) to share the news: after months of hard work, he had earned his High School Equivalency diploma (formerly known as GED). For over a decade, Clint has relied on RHI as an outlet for academic assistance, job preparation, and emotional support. He excelled as one of the first members of RHI’s Youth Leaders Program in high school, found employment at IKEA through the Young Adult Program, and honed media and tech skills as a Digital Steward. In reflecting on Clint‘s recent achievement, Meghan Ryan, RHI’s Young Adult Program Manager, proudly credited Clint‘s “persistence and commitment, even when things got hard.”

91% of RHI’s High School Youth Leaders graduate or are on track to graduate high school. In 2017, RHI will empower youth, organize residents, and invest in the Red Hook community. Our work will impact the lives of over 5,000 residents, like Clint, who confront barriers at every turn.