Story by: Victoria Merlino

First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray visited the Queens Family Justice Center in Kew Gardens Thursday to celebrate the second anniversary of the program’s mental health services for survivors of the domestic violence.

McCray met with leaders and survivors for a round table discussion, which underscored her commitment to mental health treatment hours after she announced the creation of an official Office of ThriveNYC. The new office is the next step in McCray’s signature ThriveNYC mental health initiative.

During the discussion, McCray recalled her first visit to the Family Justice Center.

“We said, ‘This is fabulous but there’s something missing,’” she said. “I knew we could do more to address the trauma that comes with violence.”

“There was so much already there: the legal services, the childcare, housing assistance — but there were no mental health services,” she continued. “I said, ‘How can this be?’ People cannot access those other services if they do not feel they are stable and can focus and concentrate.”

Two survivors attended the event shared their stories with McCray.

“Because of this program, you saved my life,” said one woman through tears.

The Family Justice Center opened in Kew Gardens in 2008 to support domestic violence survivors and their children through legal services and counseling. In February 2017, the site began providing mental health treatment and has served 300 families.

Citywide, Family Justice Centers have provided mental health support to 600 individuals and families during 4678 visits, a spokeswoman for McCray told the Eagle.

Overall, the Queens Family Justice Center hosted 14,090 client visits in 2017, according to a fact sheet from the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV). The Queens site had the the third-highest number of visitors in the city after the Family Justice Centers in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The center offers various case management services, such as helping survivors create safety plans, apply for public benefits, seek legal help, locate counseling services and connect with job training and education programs.

The services prove essential for thousands of individuals and families in Queens.

In 2017, Queens had 23,863 reported incidents of intimate partner domestic incident, the third highest number in the city after the Bronx and Brooklyn, according to OCDV. Queens also had 1,108 intimate partner felony assaults and 79 intimate partner rapes.

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