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Connecticut Mental Health Center named Gold-Level Bicycle Friendly Business by League of American Bicyclists

December 19, 2018

The League of American Bicyclists has recognized Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) with a prestigious Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Business certification.

CMHC is a public mental health center run collaboratively by the Yale Department of Psychiatry and the Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services. With the League’s announcement of 82 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Businesses (BFBs), CMHC joins a growing list of 1,314 businesses, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies leading the way to transform transportation, health, and wellness for the betterment of U.S. workers and local communities. The League of American Bicyclists, a national bicycling and advocacy organization with nearly 20,000 members, recognized Yale as a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly University in 2017.

BFB requirements identify incentives, programming, and amenities that are proven to enable and inspire more people to ride bikes.

The cornerstone of the “CMHC Cycles” initiative is its bicycle giveaway program for clients in recovery from serious mental illness and/or substance use. Eligible clients receive free bikes, helmets, locks, and a mandatory safety training. In 2018, 40 clients, all living at or below the federal poverty level, received free bicycles from CMHC.  Bicycles help clients get outside, get to work, and participate in their communities. In CMHC's recent video Recovery is Getting a Bike, one recipient explained how riding his bicycle helps lift symptoms of depression.

According to Michael J. Sernyak, MD, CEO of Connecticut Mental Health Center, the most significant action taken by CMHC in the past year has been to expand its bicycle giveaway program. Other amenities at CMHC include secure outdoor bicycle parking, an outdoor Saris work station for minor repairs, and indoor bike storage for employees. The CMHC Cycles program is run in collaboration with the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-Op with generous support from the Connecticut Mental Health Center Foundation.

“I’m very proud of CMHC’s creative approach to supporting individual and community-level health by promoting bicycling for its clients and staff,” said Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, PhD, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services. “Bicycling not only serves as a means of transportation, but it can also be used as a tool in helping individuals to achieve physical and mental wellness. As a person who enjoys cycling, I am happy to see the bicycle movement growing across the country, and I’m glad that we can be a part of it.”

Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, praised this year’s BFB awardees. “Business owners and employers across the country are looking for simple, straightforward ways to build their companies, do right by their workers and customers, and contribute positively to their local communities,” he said. “Boosting participation in bicycling achieves all of that and more, and BFBs such as Connecticut Mental Health Center are wonderful models of that success.”

“We deeply appreciate this recognition from an organization that has long been at the forefront of advocating for bicycles across the U.S.,” said Dr. Sernyak, a psychiatrist and avid cyclist. “CMHC Cycles has been an exciting and rewarding initiative as we have built an infrastructure that encourages people to cycle more. We especially want to thank our partners at the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-Op for their enthusiastic collaboration this year.”

“Physical activity is very important for human health,” Dr. Sernyak added, “and bicycles take it one step further by encouraging people to have fun.”

CMHC and the CMHC Foundation have already begun the next phase of the program: they are working with a student consulting team from the Yale School of Management to review all aspects of CMHC Cycles and recommend strategies for continuing growth. In addition, CMHC and other businesses have access to a variety of tools and technical assistance from the League of American Bicyclists to become even more bicycle-friendly.

To apply or learn more about the BFB program, visit the League online at www.bikeleague.org/business.

Submitted by Lucile Bruce on December 19, 2018