/ November 10, 2020

Associated Press: Mental health workers to take lead in some NYC 911 calls 

NEW YORK (AP) — Mental health workers will replace police officers in responding to some 911 calls under a pilot program announced Tuesday by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The program, to be rolled out next year in two neighborhoods, will give mental health professionals the lead role when someone calls 911 because a family member is in crisis, officials said.

The pilot program is modeled on existing programs in cities including Eugene, Oregon, where teams of paramedics and crisis workers have been responding to mental health 911 calls for more than 30 years. A main goal of such programs is to avoid bad outcomes from interactions between police officers and people suffering from mental illness or addiction such as the March 30 death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York.

“This is the first time in our history that health professionals will be the default responders to mental health emergencies,” said New York City first lady Chirlane McCray, who has been in charge of a broader mental health initiative called ThriveNYC that critics say has shown few results.

Police officers together with emergency medical technicians employed by the Fire Department now respond to nearly all mental health 911 calls regardless of whether there is a risk of violence, city officials said. Under the pilot program, unarmed mental health teams composed of health professionals and crisis workers from the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services will instead respond to mental health emergencies, they said.

A police officer will join the mental health team when there is a possibility that the person in crisis is armed or presents a danger, said McCray, who joined de Blasio and other city officials at a news briefing.

Details including which two neighborhoods the pilot program will be launched in have not been determined, the officials said.  

This piece was published by the Associated Press.