CHOICE is a successful peer-run non-profit mental health advocacy agency based in Westchester CountY, NY, with over 15 years of experience and many awards for Excellence in Service for Peer Advocacy and Homeless Outreach programs. CHOICE is also the only peer agency in New York State to receive Medicaid reimbursement for eligible Case Management clients.
Celebrating Over 18 Years of Successful Growth
CHOICE was founded in 1994 by a consumer of mental health services who was terribly frustrated by the difficulties of connecting to the assistance she was entitled to receive. Before it was a separate entity, CHOICE was a program of a fiscal sponsor, on a budget of roughly $26,000. This funding was provided by the Office of Mental Health through a contract administered by the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health. A single office was donated by a state facility, and the only paid staff member was a part-time director. Everyone else — advocates, clerical and maintenance ‘staff’ — were volunteers.
In 1996, CHOICE received its 501(c)(3) status, although it continued to function as a part of its fiscal sponsor. The program moved to larger quarters: a second-floor walk-up.
In 1997, CHOICE hired its first full time Executive Director. The Department of Community Mental Health increased funding to $56,800, and in May 1997 awarded CHOICE the first contract in the region to go directly to a peer-run agency without the use of a fiscal sponsor. CHOICE was officially an independent nonprofit agency. In addition to the full-time Executive Director, the staff now included two paid part-time advocates. Later in 1997, CHOICE provided case management services to its former fiscal sponsor and added two more part-time staff.
Further expansion came in 1998. Under a Commissioners Performance Fund award, CHOICE received three full-time state staff. In another first-of-its-kind contract, CHOICE also entered an agreement with Westchester County to provide case management services to Mount Vernon, Tuckahoe, Eastchester and Pelham. Two additional full-time staff were added for this program.
In 1999 CHOICE joined with the County Department of Community Mental Health and New York Hospital as part of a newly funded homeless outreach initiative. Additional funding made it possible to hire additional full-time staff. By now CHOICE was operating with nine full-time staff and only two volunteers.
In March 2000, CHOICE moved to more spacious, fully accessible, offices.
The following year, due to the success of its Homeless Outreach program, CHOICE was awarded additional funding to expand these services. Choice was the recipient of the Office of Mental Health 2001 Achievement Award for Excellence in Service. Also in 2001, CHOICE became one of the first peer-run agencies in New York State to receive a Medicaid-reimbursable case management position.
Ten years later, CHOICE is the only peer agency in New York State to receive Medicaid reimbursement for eligible Case Management clients.
CHOICE put into action an aggressive expansion plan that resulted in the agency servicing more than 1,000 clients by September, 2014.
CHOICE began an active fundraising campaign that began with the annual “EXPRESSIONS” art show featuring the exhibition and sale of artwork created by the agency’s clients.
CHOICE opened a new satellite in White Plains, NY with the goal of serving 1,000 more clients per year in a welcoming, nurturing custom designed environment.
CHOICE became the first agency in Westchester County to be given full time access and office space INSIDE Westchester County Jail. The goal is to work with prisoners struggling with mental illness BEFORE they are released so that they come out with foundation that gives them a good solid reason to better themselves and their lives…to break the incarceration cycle for so many who suffer.