The city’s health director’s plan to commingle services by opening a mental health clinic in the second floor of the health department building was scrapped early last week when council members rejected the proposal for a second time.
“This is something we can’t get wrong,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, who led the opposition against the abortive mental health clinic. He raised doubts about the qualification of the sole company, Future Projects LLC of Union Avenue, that submitted a proposal for the lucrative $3.74 million contract.
Morris said the highly qualified doctor the company touted while before the council earlier in the month did not have a clinical psychologist license from the state. He said the doctor has a pediatrician’s license. He also citied many of the company’s employees have certification to practice counseling.
There’s also an issue with having volatile individuals seeking assistance at the health department which raised fears about security.
“The primary concern is security,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. The city currently has security at the location, said health director Donna Nelson-Ivy. The company has also proposed to add additional security at the site.
“I believe we’re over scrutinizing this group,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. Jackson wanted to give the contract to the company because they were “Paterson natives.”
“They are Paterson natives. Who better to serve Paterson than Paterson natives,” said Jackson.
“The need is great out there,” added Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman.
Cotton and Jackson said the money to fund the program is coming from grants and not taxpayers.
The city has $250,000 in Community Development Block Grant set aside for the program. Those funds though are also coming out of the pockets of taxpayers who pay income taxes to the federal government.
“It’s all grant,” said Cotton. Morris said the five-year program is not sustainable because even in the first year the program will cost $307,000. The costs escalate to $821,000 by the fifth year, according to city records.
Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, said if the grant money is not properly used homeowners could be on the hook to repay the federal government.
“We need these services. We can’t afford to put our children and young people at risk,” said Morris.
“There was a lot of questions that were not answered,” added Alex Mendez, councilman at-large.
Jackson’s steadfast support for the city-based company earned him disapproval and jeers from a packed city council audience on Tuesday night.
The council rejected the contract for a second time in a 5-1 vote. Cotton voted in favor of the contract while Jackson abstained.
Morris, Sayegh, Mendez, Akhtaruzzaman, and William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, voted against the proposal.
Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman, and Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large, were absent.
The council previously rejected the contract on February 23rd, 2016.