Looking Back at Our Jan 14 2021 Town Hall

In Jan 14 2021, over 200 attendees turned out on Zoom to listen to updates on crucial quality of life concerns in Harlem, as well as Greater Harlem Coalition’s accomplishments in 2020, and our strategy for 2021. Thank you all of you for showing up in such powerful numbers.

Not surprisingly, emotions in the meeting ran high as  we listened to Mount Sinai obfuscate and filibuster, especially around the issue of their patients loitering after receiving treatment at Mount Sinai’s 132 W 125 Street and 103 E 125 Street methadone facilities. As a reminder, 40% of Harlem’s methadone dispensing capabilities come from Mount Sinai|Beth Israel.

With over 200 questions for Mount Sinai in the chat, the audience showed Mount Sinai that Harlem and East Harlem are watching, and that we are concerned about the community impact of their new Mount Sinai Ambulatory Care Center at 158 W 124th Street, which notably includes the  CARES program.  GHC members are also demanding  that Mount Sinai address and reduce the unacceptable impact that the methadone programs on 125th Street have on residents, our children, and local businesses.

Updates on the 158 West 124th Street Facility and CARES program from Mount Sinai

In spite of Mount Sinai’s less than forthright engagement with the community, It’s important to note that that we learned of one significant win:

Mount Sinai changed their minds about putting addiction services in their new 124th Street building. 

While this does not square with their insistence that CARES (a program for high school students with behavioral health and substance abuse issues) will also be located in this new facility, we are celebrating Mount Sinai’s reversal after two and a half years of protesting and organizing.  Although, this is not the complete abandonment we want, it is a victory to be celebrated nonetheless!

Although Mount Sanai has not completely abandoned the new 124th Street facility, as we wish them to, this is a victory to be celebrated, nonetheless!

Updates on Existing Facilities on 132 W 125 Street and 103 E 125 Street

As for the issue of loitering in the 2 large existing facilities, Mount Sinai informed us that they have contracted a new , more reputable security firm and will staff their new building with retired NYPD sergeants.  Mount Sinai will also be installing additional security measures  inside the buildings, such as metal detectors and security cameras. 

To our surprise, Mount Sinai pointedly noted that they are only responsible for security inside their building. We wonder: if Mount Sinai believes that such intensive security measures are required to protect their own personnel from their patients, where does this leave the local businesses and residents who live and work near these facilities? 

If Mount Sinai believes they are not responsible for mitigating their negative impact in the vicinity, who is protecting the local population??? 

Not government agencies, as OASAS has already stated that this is not their problem. Not the police, as they are overstretched and believe OASAS to be the root cause of the problem. This game of hot potato being played with our safety is extremely disturbing to say the least. We urge Governor Cuomo to address this issue.

Update on 160 W 124 Street Facility CARES Program for At-risk Youth

We are highly disappointed to hear that Mount Sinai insists on moving CARES from its Morningside Heights location at 1111 Amsterdam Avenue to 160 W 124th Street. CARES — Comprehensive Adolescent Rehabilitation and Education Services is Mount Sinai/St. Luke’s program for high school students ages 13 through 21 with mental health and/or substance abuse issues.  

CARES program current location

To be clear, Mount Sinai is moving at-risk youth to one of Manhattan’s most blatant open-air illegal drug marketplaces and half a block from one of NYC’s largest methadone treatment clinics. How is this a good idea???

Would Mount Sinai board members send their children to school in this location?  It is hard to see any pedagogical motive for this move.  Rather the relocation  appears to be soley for the benefit of the hospital’s profit maximization.

We will Not Stop Here

Many of you participated in the very active chat with more than 200 questions and comments for Mount Sinai.  A copy of this chat will be sent to the Mount Sinai participants to give them the opportunity to respond.

If you have any follow-up questions, feel free to reach out to Brad Beckstrom the public relations person who led the Mount Sinai presentation and let us know what response you get (or don’t) so we can encourage follow-up and accountability: brad.beckstrom@mssm.edu. For questions related to the CARES program, contact the program director: shilpa.taufique@mountsinai.org 

To see some sample of the > 200 questions and comments in the chat:

New Facility on 158 West 124 Street

  • Why was this location chosen?
  • Do you have a community advisory board/committee?
  • I am curious to hear how this facility was initially approved. Was it a city decision? What is Mt Sinai’s strategy for expansion in the community, and has it already been approved? Thank you.
  • What is the security plans for outside the building and surrounding areas?
  • Can you please speak to the ways in which you plan to make the facility culturally acceptable to this key community, while maintaining your security personnel on site
  • What assurance is there that medication assisted treatment (MAT) patients will not eventually be supported at this location?
  • What percentage of your patients are from areas outside of Harlem?
  • Can you tell us the breakdown as far as what percentage of patients will be HIV vs behavioral health care?
  • You say there will be no drug treatment, service for other concerns; the background history of these participants is DRUG USE; thereby some form of drug treatment will be carried out.

CARES program:

  • Are you not concerned that you are bringing vulnerable people who may have addiction issues into an already over-saturated drug clinic area, with so much illegal drug dealing?
  • St. Lukes/Columbia Univ area seems to get a different level of attention than Central Harlem

Existing Facilities on 132 W 125 Street and 103 E 125 Street

Quality of life

  • Do any of you panelists live on a street with three drug treatment centers?
  • If you are such a good neighbor, why are you over saturating our community when you could locate these substance clinics in upper east side?
  • The residents here are sick and tired of the dope addicts and drug dealers your enterprises have brought to our neighborhood. 123rd 124th streets on MXB.  We had to create a block association because of the influence of your dope clinics. I personally want you out of here but I am willing to listen….every single day they shooting a heroin on my block!! this doesn’t help my community
  • Dope addicts and drug dealers have overrun our neighborhood. I have been calling the police, taking pictures, putting my family’s lives in danger, walking through throngs of dope addicts for over two years mostly, but this has been going on for over a decade.

Security

  • I agree that [under the new plan,] you seem to have great security in your facilities, but the you’re causing serious problems for the rest of the neighborhood since your jurisdiction is only your property line.
  • Sounds like you have great security in your facilities, but the you’re causing serious problems for us. Because your facilities attract all these folks that become an easy target for drug dealers and since they cannot linger around your facility they end up in front of our cafe and wreck havoc. I spend all day every single day trying to move high out of their minds people, spitting, pissing, and throwing garbage all over the place. What do you say or do about that?
  • What will be the ratio of security staff to patients and how will the clinic prevent the clients from congregating in large groups on the block
  • How many blocks around your facility will your security firm cover? If you cannot cover more than your perimeter, then you must reduce methadone capacity in Harlem

Author: Greater Harlem

A concerned citizen who lives in East Harlem

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