Harlem Strong Community Creating impact in mental health

Our team of community members, leaders, and trainers are working together to 

1) identify the mental health needs in Harlem.

2) collaborate on a community-centered approach to increasing appropriate mental health services.

Our mission Empowering People

Harlem Strong’s mission is to address the syndemic risks of mental health, social risks, institutional racism, and COVID-19 through a neighborhood-based multisectoral coalition of community, faith-based, mental health, social service, health, and city organizations focused on mental health integration and coordination of care across the Harlem community.

Our Vision To close gaps in care and strengthen community mental health resiliency in Harlem.

Our Values The Harlem Strong Initiative prioritizes:

01 Community - partnered approach

02 Health equity

03 Evidence-based solutions

Our Team

Lead Institutions

Center for Innovation in Mental Health (CIMH)

CIMH is an academic training and research center that promotes reach and adoption of evidence-based mental health interventions through research, evaluation, training, and policy. CIMH has extensive background in developing capacity, implementing, scaling up, and evaluating evidence-based practices (EBPs) for mental health across multiple sectors for vulnerable communities globally. CIMH’s goal is to support the development and scale-up of evidence-based mental health solutions and innovations to increase access and quality of mental health care for all populations.

Harlem Health Initiative (HHI)

Harlem Health Initiative has worked to increase the knowledge, skills, technology, and infrastructure needed to implement and sustain science-based, culturally appropriate behavioral interventions and public health strategies. The HHI Model is structured to stimulate change through mobilization, education, and coordination of indigenous Harlem leaders, (in all strata of community life) to address health consequences of racism and racial justice in the Harlem communities.

Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, Inc. (HCCI)

Founded in 1986, HCCI is a diverse coalition of inter-faith congregations that has implemented a comprehensive portfolio of programs to provide affordable housing and safe streets; offer opportunities for individuals and groups to become and remain economically independent; increase understanding of and access to health care; and provide substantive educational programs for adults and young people.

Healthfirst Managed Care

Healthfirst is New York’s largest not-for-profit health insurer, offering high-quality, affordable health insurance plans, including Medicaid plans, Medicare Advantage plans, long-term care plans, qualified health plans, and individual and small group plans. Sponsored by New York City’s leading health systems, Healthfirst’s mission is to provide high quality health care coverage to individuals and families in the New York service area. Healthfirst contracts with over 150 community-based behavioral health care providers throughout Harlem.

Project Directors

Victoria Ngo, PhD

Principal Investigator, Harlem Strong Community Mental Health Initiative

Director, Center for Innovation in Mental Health; Center for Immigrant,Refugee, and Global Health.
Associate Professor, Community Health and Social Sciences CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.
Adjunct Behavioral Scientist, RAND Corporation

Malcolm A. Punter, EdD, MBA

Chair, Harlem Strong Community Advisory Board

President& CEO, Harlem Congregations of Community Improvement, Inc. (HCCI)

Deborah Levine, MSW, LCSW

Community Director, Harlem Strong Community Mental Health Initiative

Director, Harlem Health Initiative


Jose Florez-Arango, MD, PhD, MSc

Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Deputy Director, CIMH

Expertise: Technology, Health Informatics

Terry Huang, PhD

Professor, Health Policy and Management

Director, Center for Systems and Community Design

Founder, Firefly Innovations

Expertise: System Science, Group Model Building, Entrepreneurship Models

Katarzyna Wyka, PhD

Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Expertise: randomized controlled study design, biostatistical analysis for mental health


Luisa Borrell, PhD

Distinguished Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Expertise: Epidemiology, Latino health disparities

Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, PhD

Associate Professor, Community Health and Social Science

Expertise: Substance use epidemiology, Latino health disparities

Ashish Joshi, PhD, MBBS, MPH

Associate Dean of Students and Academic Affairs 

Chair, Health Informatics Program at CUNY SPH

Expertise: COVID-19 epidemiology, health informatics

Scott Ratzan, MD, MPA, MA, BA

Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY SPH

Expertise: COVID-19 Vaccine hesitancy, health communication, multisectoral collaborations

Sasha Fleary, PhD

Associate Professor, Community Health and Social Sciences

Expertise: health literacy in ethnic minority communities, health disparities

Bruce Lee, MD, MBA

Professor. Health Policy and Management

Expertise: systems science, system modeling, cost evaluations, and tools to assist decision-making in public health, health, and medicine.

Rashi Kumar, MUP

Director of Research and Policy, Healthfirst

Expertise: evidence-based/innovative programs

Marie Sillice, PhD

Assistant Research Professor

Expertise: behavioral health prevention intervention, technology applications, culturally relevant approaches

Tom Wang, MPH

Partnerships Manager of Research and Evaluation, Healthfirst

Expertise: health plan administrative claims data research, R, health services research

Yvonne Owens Ferguson, PhD, MPH

NIH Project Scientist

Program Leader, Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity

Expertise: health equity, system transformation

Marina Weiss, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Letty DiLeo, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

CUNY SPH Project Team

Project Managers & Coordinators

Srividhya Sharma, PhD, MPH, Project Manager
Spencer Washington, BA, Outreach Coordinator

Research Assistants

Vivian Le, MPH

Data Manager

Thinh Vu, MSc, Doctoral Student, CHHP

Our Research Evidence-based

Community-engaged planning is an evidence-based model for coordinating systems of care and will be used to support implementation of a multisector collaborative care in low income housing (LIC) and primary care (PC) sites.

Harlem Strong will use a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART) design to build an adaptive implementation strategy in which we first test the effectiveness of a community-engaged multisector collaborative care model (MCC) compared with education and resources (E&R) for MH task-sharing (screening, education, and referral).

During the second randomization, MCC sites will be randomized to the addition of technology-based implementation tool to determine the added value of a community-developed innovation for implementation.

Harlem Strong will evaluate the impact on system and consumers of a multisectoral community collaborative care model.

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