New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
NYC Health.svg
Health Building 125 Worth Street.jpg
125 Worth Street in 2013
Department overview
FormedApril 5, 1870; 152 years ago (1870-04-05)
Preceding agencies
JurisdictionNew York City
Headquarters42-09 28th St
Long Island City, NY 11101
Department executive
Child department
  • New York City Board of Health
Key document
2 Gotham Center in Long Island City, home to New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is the department of the government of New York City[1] responsible for public health along with issuing birth certificates, dog licenses, and conducting restaurant inspection and enforcement. The New York City Board of Health is part of the department.[2][3] Its regulations are compiled in title 24 of the New York City Rules (the New York City Health Code). Since March 2022, the commissioner has been Ashwin Vasan.


NYC is organized into 30 health districts (sometimes referred to as health center districts), themselves composed of 354 health areas which are sets of census tracts. NYC is also organized into 17 mental health regions.


The department was initially set up as the Health Committee (later Commission), a quasi-governmental public health group in response to a yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia in 1793. Governor John Jay made a proclamation on 13 September 1793 to establish this to regulate the ports of the city and ensure proper quarantines. Three days later, the city, under the leadership of Mayor Richard Varick, created a tandem committee that ensured both private and commercial needs would be addressed. New York would see additional epidemics in 1795, 1796, 1798, 1799, and 1800, which lead to the creation of the 'New York City Board of Health', which held its first meeting in 1805.[4]

In 1866, the New York State legislature enacted a bill establishing the 'Metropolitan Board of Health', consisting of the four Police Commissioners, four Health Commissioners appointed by the Governor, and the Health Officer for the Port of New York.[5] In 1870, the legislature replaced the Board of Health with the Department of Health, with additional responsibilities including street cleaning and sanitary permits.[6][7]

As of December 1894, Charles G. Wilson was serving as President of the Board of Health.[8]

As a result of its consolidation with the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Alcoholism Services, it was renamed the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on July 29, 2002.[9] In 2021, Michelle E. Morse was named the first Chief Medical Officer of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.[10]


In October 2017, public health and animal rights activists in New York City launched a campaign to compel Health Commissioner Mary Bassett to enforce seven public health codes violated during Kaporos, a ritual animal sacrifice that takes place before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.[11][WP:RS?] From October 2017 to May 2018, the activists disrupted four of her public speaking engagements and staged four protests in the lobby of the NYC Department of Health (DOH).[12] The activists allege that Commissioner Bassett is turning a blind eye to the health code violations because the ultra-Orthodox Jews who practice the ritual represent a powerful voting bloc. During Kaporos, an estimated 60,000 six-week-old chickens are intensively confined in crates without food or water for up to several days before being ritually slaughtered. Activists claim that many die of starvation, thirst and exposure before the ritual takes place, but there is no evidence of this. While activists claim the birds are discarded after slaughter, they are typically used for food and often donated to the poor.[13] A toxicology reported submitted to the court as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the DOH states that the ritual poses a risk to public health in the neighborhoods where it takes place.[14] While Commissioner Bassett did not publicly acknowledge the toxicology report or the activists' claims about the health code violations, she issued a public statement asserting that "there remains no evidence that the use of chickens for Kaporos poses a significant risk to human health."[15]


  • New York City Board of Health
  • Commissioner of Health
    • General Counsel
    • Chief Medical Examiner
    • Executive Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer
      • Deputy Commissioner for Mental Hygiene
        • Alcohol and Drug Treatment
        • Child and Adolescent Services
        • Mental Health
        • Developmental Disabilities
        • Systems Strengthening and Access
      • Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control
        • Communicable Diseases
        • HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control
        • Immunization
        • Public Health Laboratory
        • STI Prevention and Control
        • Tuberculosis Control
      • Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Health
        • Environmental Disease Prevention
        • Environmental Emergency Preparedness and Response
        • Environmental Sciences and Engineering
        • Environmental Surveillance and Policy
        • Food Safety and Community Sanitation
        • Poison Control Center
        • Veterinary and Pest Control
      • Deputy Commissioner for Epidemiology
        • Epidemiology Services
        • Vital Statistics
        • Public Health Training
        • World Trade Center Health Registry
      • Deputy Commissioner for Health Care Access and Improvement
        • Correctional Health Services
        • Primary Care Access and Planning
        • Primary Care Information Project
        • Information Technology Initiatives
      • Deputy Commissioner for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
        • Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control
        • District Public Health Offices
        • Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health
        • School Health
      • Deputy Commissioner for Administration
      • Deputy Commissioner for Finance
      • Deputy Commissioner and Chief Information Officer
      • Deputy Commissioner for Emergency Preparedness and Response

Board of Health[edit]

The New York City Board of Health is part of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and consists of the commissioner of the department, the chairperson of the department's Mental Hygiene Advisory Board, and nine other members appointed by the mayor.[3]

Members Titles Appointed Notes
Dave A. Chokshi MD August 4, 2020 Commissioner of Health of the City of New York.
Pamela S. Brier MPH Maimonides Medical Center former CEO.
Sixto R. Caro MD NYU School of Medicine clinical assistant professor; NYU Langone physician.
Joel A. Forman MD Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai professor; Mount Sinai Hospital affiliated.
Susan Klitzman DrPH, MPH, CPH CUNY School of Public Health professor.
Lynne D. Richardson MD, FACEP Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai professor; Mount Sinai Hospital affiliated.
Gail B. Nayowith MSW 1digit LLC principal.
Rosa M. Gil DSW Comunilife Inc. CEO.
Karen B. Redlener MS Children's Health Fund executive director.
Mitchell H. Katz MD NYC Health + Hospitals president.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New York City Charter § 551(a); "There shall be a department of health and mental hygiene, the head of which shall be the commissioner of health and mental hygiene [...]"
  2. ^ New York City Charter § 553
  3. ^ a b New York Statewide Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce v New York City Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene, 23 NY3d 681 (2014).
  4. ^ "John Jay and the Yellow Fever Epidemics (Part 1)". Coumbia University. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  5. ^ Chapter 74 of the Laws of 1866, volume 1, pages 114–144, enacted 26 February 1866, at § 5.
  6. ^ "New York City Department of Health Centennial" (PDF). New York City Department of Health. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  7. ^ Chapter 137, Laws of 1870, enacted 5 April 1870, §30, page 373; § 90 et seq., page 388.
  8. ^ "Charles G. Wilson Seriously Ill". The New York Times. New York City, United States. December 19, 1894. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  9. ^ Cooper, Michael (July 30, 2002). "Metro Briefing — Streets And Agencies Renamed". New York Times. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Health Department Appoints Its First Ever Chief Medical Officer". February 16, 2021. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  11. ^ "NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett Misleads Public About Legality of Kaporos Chicken Massacre". 27 October 2017.
  12. ^ Schapiro, Noah Goldberg, Rich. "Protesters slam Health Department, implore city to ban Jewish chicken slaughter ritual – NY Daily News".
  13. ^ 7 October 2016.
  14. ^ "The Yom Kippur Massacre of 2016 (VIDEO)". 31 October 2016.
  15. ^ "Activists Protest NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett Over Illegal Animal Massacre". 13 February 2018.

External links[edit]