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Philly Mayoral Candidate Helen Gym on the Mental Health Crisis

April 26, 2023

Philadelphians will go to the ballot box this November to elect their 100th mayor. The city’s next mayor will inherit what President Joe Biden has described as a “mental health crisis.” It is imperative that voters know how the candidates will respond to the crisis upon taking office. As the region’s leader in individual, couples, and family therapy, we contacted all current candidates to better understand their strategies for tackling this crisis. We will publish all candidates’ responses as is.

Note: Council for Relationships, a nonprofit organization, does not endorse any political candidate.

The Philadelphia municipal primary is May 16, 2023, and the municipal election is November 7, 2023. Click here to learn more about the important election dates and how to register to vote.

Today we welcome former Philadelphia City Council Member Helen Gym (D). Read on to learn what Helen Gym’s administration would do to address the mental health crisis in Philadelphia.


Portrait of Helen Gym against a plain grey backdrop. Gym is wearing a yellow shirt and is looking directly at the camera while smiling. She has dark hair down to her shoulders and the portrait is cut off at her waist.

Helen Gym (pictured here) became the first Asian American to win a seat as a Council Member of Philadelphia’s City Council in 2016.

How will your administration address the mental health and emotional wellness needs of Philadelphia? Describe your vision for how we can build stronger relationships among and within families and communities.

Our violence crisis is also a mental health crisis, with stress and interpersonal conflict too often escalating out of control. On City Council, I helped launch the first mental health emergency crisis units to address mental health, addiction, homelessness, and domestic concerns with trained specialists, while freeing up officers to focus on serious crime — and as mayor, I will expand this program citywide. I will make sure that whenever there is an emergency, residents get the help they need from a trained specialist. As Mayor, I will also expand access to free “mental health first aid” training for all residents so that community members can help people in need connect with appropriate response teams.

I will take a case management approach to gun violence so that families impacted by violence are automatically connected with no-barrier trauma counseling services, mental health supports, crisis intervention, and resources for covering related expenses – including facilitating immediate counseling or mediation when needed.

As mayor, I will allocate more funding to the Defender Association of Philadelphia to hire more social workers, ensuring that those involved in the criminal justice system are provided access to housing, mental health, vocational training and placement, and drug treatment resources.

I will bolster mental health treatment within our City jails and address pervasive deficiencies that compromise medical and mental health treatment provided to those who are incarcerated.

Describe your plan to make mental health care accessible to all Philadelphians, particularly for Philadelphia’s Black community, who disproportionally lack access to mental health care.

Right now, Philadelphia has a shortage of culturally competent, accessible mental health professionals. A key path to increasing access to quality mental health care is investing in workforce development and improving career pipelines, particularly for the Black community. As Mayor, I will increase access to high-quality mental health care by building the therapeutic workforce, training hundreds of additional practitioners on culturally-responsive trauma therapy, and establishing scholarship or fellowship incentives with local colleges and universities to increase the number of graduates entering this field.

With President Biden naming the “tackling of the mental health crisis” as a priority for his administration, describe your plan to address the growing mental health crisis youth face in the city and what role government agencies such as the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities Services (DBHIDS) will play in addressing the youth mental health crisis.

As Mayor, I will ensure that our schools are used as a place of treatment to increase the mental and emotional well-being of students. From increased access to high-quality and culturally-responsive counseling to co-locating mental health service providers in schools to implementing a youth-led initiative to address the factors driving their mental health challenges and encouraging school cultures that center mental health support, I will ensure that we prioritize helping children heal and mature into well-rounded adults.

I’ve always prioritized the mental health needs of our young people. From holding the District accountable for bullying and harassment to restoring nurses and counselors back to schools, I believe academic success starts with teen mental health and wellness — and I know that the best way to connect children with resources is to integrate them into our public schools.

I was proud to help launch a CBH-funded social worker in schools program and as Mayor, I will expand the program to all schools. I have led efforts to expand the arts in schools, and I firmly believe that greater access to arts programming is critical to learning loss and mental health recovery. City agencies must partner with the District to ensure afterschool and summer programming that meets a wide variety of student needs, from academic learning to mentorship to healthcare to employment. I intend to bring back Parent University to provide family and parenting classes to build stronger and more resilient and resourced families.

As Mayor, I will ensure that our schools are used as a place of treatment to increase the mental and emotional well-being of students. From increased access to high-quality and culturally-responsive counseling to co-locating mental health service providers in schools to implementing a youth-led initiative to address the factors driving their mental health challenges and encouraging school cultures that center mental health support, I will ensure that we prioritize helping children heal.

Supporting young people’s mental health is also key to preventing violence and helping children and teens deal with violence-related trauma. My administration will ensure that schools in impacted neighborhoods have afterschool programs and that these schools receive enhanced staffing and support, particularly around mental health and family and teen wellness programs.

And lastly, I will implement conflict resolution training and programming in schools that are rooted in restorative models and not merely replicating justice system involvement, as well as programming that supports healthy relationship development and prevents intimate partner violence.


A Note from CFR

As a nonprofit, Council for Relationships relies on the generosity of others to make the highest-quality mental health care available to those who lack access. Please consider donating today.


Other Mayoral Candidate Responses

Philadelphia Mayoral Candidate David Oh on the Mental Health Crisis

Philadelphia Mayoral Candidate Rebecca Rhynhart on the Mental Health Crisis

Philly Mayoral Candidate Jimmy DeLeon on the Mental Health Crisis

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