The Allen Hospital, located in the residential neighborhood of Inwood in New York City, is home to one of the few remaining inpatient psychiatric care units left in Manhattan. Created as a community hospital with the intent to serve the residents of the area, the Allen Hospital’s psychiatric unit provides 30 beds and cares for over 600 patients a year. Many of the patients at Allen Psych are immigrants or people of color, many cannot afford private health insurance, and many face dual diagnoses: severe mental illness and substance use disorders. At the Allen Hospital, our neighbors can remain close to their families while receiving the professional care they need to recover. Without Allen Psych, and with inpatient psychiatric beds at capacity citywide, many of our neighbors may end up trapped in New York’s largest provider of psychiatric care: Rikers Island.
Amid a nationwide struggle for affordable, single-payer health insurance, and against the backdrop an opioid epidemic, gentrification, and the unprecedented expansion of the carceral state, New-York Presbyterian plans to close Allen Psych.
Why are they doing this? In 2015, NYP — and one of the largest hospital systems and landowners in the country — created the Daniel and Jane Och Spine Center. Funded by and named after a corrupt hedge-fund billionaire, the new specialty center targets wealthy people who can afford any care they need, from wherever they need it. Despite being incredibly lucrative already, NYP wants to expand the Spine Center, and its bottom line, by closing the psychiatric unit.
Sacrificing the well-being of the community may not mean much to financiers or private hospital executives, but it means everything to the people who live here, to the families whose loved ones require psychiatric care for their survival. This is not a distant, abstract change in hospital policy. This is a direct threat to the lives of New Yorkers.
In response, we’ve organized the campaign to Save Allen Psych. We are a coalition of neighbors, nurses, and students who are organizing to prevent NYP from closing the Psych Unit. We do not see NYP’s decision as an isolated incident, but as part of a national trend. When large institutions like NYP are allowed to deny medical services on the basis of revenue, when they can purchase nearly limitless amounts of property, and when they replace beds for our neighbors with services for the rich, we do not call that “running a business.” We call it exploitation, racism, and gentrification. We call it putting profits over people.
For over a year now, the campaign to Save Allen Psych has worked to keep the Allen Hospital’s psychiatric unit open and fully funded. We have already succeeded in delaying the proposed closure by a full calendar year, pushing back the initial closure scheduled for June of 2018. However, until NYP commits publicly to — at the bare minimum — keep the psychiatric unit open, our campaign must continue. The goal of this campaign has been, and will continue to be, not only to preserve the hospital’s psychiatric services, but to engage community members in our shared struggle when the forces of profit would endanger them.
So how can we win this fight? How can we prevent this threat, and others that intersect with it, from harming our communities? Until all aspects of our society and economy are run democratically, until all institutions are public institutions, we will have to work — together — to ensure that the public good is put before profit.
All of this requires one thing: organizing. NewYork-Presbyterian has the money, so we need to have the numbers. If you want to help keep Allen Psych open, if you are concerned for the health and wellbeing of your neighborhood, please join our fight to Save Allen Psych.