Heller launches 81st AD leader re-election bid


Michael Heller announced on Jan. 10 that he is running for re-election as the male member of the New York State Democratic Committee in the 81st Assembly District.

The former president of the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club won his election against Unity Democratic Club-backed candidate Aaron Stayman back in 2022. Heller has a life-long passion for public service and Democratic Party politics, a news release he sent reads.

Since high school, Heller has volunteered in many campaigns. He went to Columbia University where he received a BA in political science and an MPA.

Heller has held several public affairs and community/government relations positions at Montefiore/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Jacobi/North Central Bronx Hospital, Maimonides Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center (Paterson) and the New York City Transit Authority, according to his release.

Heller was also the former district manager of Community Board 8 and chair of the traffic and transportation committee. He currently serves as president of the Association of Riverdale Co-Ops/Condominiums. The former president of the BFRDC club said he has held every executive position over his 40-year membership.

As a common-sense progressive Democrat, he says he looks for consensus on policies that build the Democratic Party statewide. He is looking forward to another year of leadership, he says, electing Democrats and reelecting President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

— Eric Harvey

Torres introduces mental health bill

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres is pushing for expanded access to mental health services. The local congressman and Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer sponsored the “Securing Facilities for Mental Health Services Act” on Jan. 9.

The bipartisan legislation would eliminate the prohibition in Section 242 of the National Housing Act that prohibits inpatient psychiatric hospitals from applying for mortgage assistance.

“Access to quality and affordable mental health services is personal to me,” Torres said in a news release. “As someone who has struggled with their own mental health at various points in my life, I know how painful and insurmountable those feelings can be. It is our duty as public servants to address shortfalls in the system, and that is what Congressman Emmer and I are doing with this critical bill.”

At the moment inpatient psychiatric hospitals are the only type of health care facilities prevented from accessing mortgage assistance through the Section 242 program, Torres’ release stated. The bill seeks to alleviate the inpatient bed shortage across the country and eliminate further barriers to psychiatric inpatient hospital expansion.

This bill was first introduced by Torres and Emmer in June 2022. Both representatives  later sent a letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro of the Government Accountability Office requesting an independent study of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s mortgage assistance to acute care hospitals and the steps HUD would have to take to implement the bill.

According to the release, the bill is endorsed by the Minnesota Hospital Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Behavioral Healthcare.

— Eric Harvey

Michael Heller, 81st Assembly District, leader, Ritchie Torres, Congress, mental health