There were more than 170,000 mental health calls to 911 in New York City last year and the “majority concerned people who just needed help” with “no indication of violence at all,” McCray said.
Teams responding to these types of calls will consist of an EMS health care professional as well as a mental health crisis worker. NYPD officers will not be among the default first responders in these two neighborhoods as it previously had been.
In cases where someone is reported to have a weapon or violent behavior, an NYPD officer will be dispatched, too, but the health professionals will “be in charge of coordinating the effort,” McCray said.
Susan Herman, director of ThriveNYC, said a previous pilot program consisting of NYPD officers and mental health workers responding to these kinds of 911 calls is on hold while the city sees if the “even more health-centered approach to these kinds of mental health emergencies would be successful.”
The aim is for mental health emergencies to be de-escalated with immediate care provided and then to connect the person who is having the crisis with the appropriate professionals for long term health care, McCray said.
“When it’s not done properly, when these people are not encountered and handled properly, it can be traumatizing for them,” she added. “We do not want to make a bad situation worse for anyone.”
Laura Kavanagh, first deputy commissioner of the New York City Fire Department, said training for the EMS teams and social workers will begin immediately for the rollout to begin in February. The goal is for the program eventually to expand across the city, de Blasio added.
“The vast majority of cases you’re talking about you have an opportunity for a peaceful outcome with a health-centered approach, and that’s what we are focusing on here. Obviously if you have proven professional addressing people, they’re going to be best able to get to a good outcome,” de Blasio said.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said NYPD, the nation’s largest police department, was looking forward to participating in the program. “Our officers applaud the intervention by health professionals in these non violent cases and as always stand ready to assist.”
This piece was published by USA Today.