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Not Everyone Is Convinced First Lady McCray's 'Thrive NYC' Initiative To Combat Mental Illness Works

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There are concerns about a program launched by the first lady of New York City that is designed to tackle mental health issues.

Critics want to know if Thrive NYC is actually working.

As CBS2's Hazel Sanchez found out Wednesday, getting actual statistics may not be easy.

It has been three years since first lady Chirlane McCray launched Thrive NYC, an ambitious multi-million dollar effort to solve mental health issues in the Big Apple.

"We've gotten, actually, I'd say international approval and encouragement and praise from people who've been doing this work for decades," McCray said Wednesday, "and so we know we're on the right track."

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But here at home, some elected officials doubt that track record.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilman Robert Holden have both criticized the city for its lack of transparency when it comes to Thrive and how it's using its $850 million budget.

chirlane mccray
NYC first lady Chirlane McCray (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)

"There are a lot of critics, because so many people ... they don't understand it," McCray said.

"I would just like to know how many people are being helped? Can you give us a number? Can you give us people that have been removed? Or that have, or that are getting treatment? Do we see an improvement?" Holden said.

"Thrive is a toddler. It was born three years ago. So for the kinds of measures you're thinking about, we're really not going to have them for a while," McCray responded.

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McCray says more than half a million people have called NYC Well, the city's mental health help line. But there's no metric to show how many people have actually used the services, or to show if Thrive is making a difference.

"You can't track everything right away," McCray said. "For example, when we banned smoking in New York City we didn't know how many people we were saving from developing lung cancer. That's impossible to know."

"That's unacceptable. I don't buy that at all. I like the first lady. I think her heart's in the right place, but we need accountability when taxpayer money is involved, especially that much money," Holden said.

Holden said New Yorkers are constantly bombarded by mentally ill people in the subway system, and he said violent attacks, like the one on an autistic boy this week, make many believe Thrive isn't working.

McCray said she welcomes feedback, positive or not, and will refine the program as needed.

Councilman Holden will be meeting with Thrive NYC's senior adviser next week.

McCray said the city has struggled to get information on the success rates of Thrive NYC's programs because of privacy issues.

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