Some 911 calls to be handled by mental health professionals in new NY pilot program

As of now the New York Police Department responds to mental health crises but Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that mental health experts will soon be deployed

Change is happening in New York City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday a new program that will deploy mental health experts when responding to 911 mental health crises instead of police. The press release stated the Mental Health Teams of Emergency Medical Services will launch in two high-need communities in February 2021.

Read More: San Francisco officials pass CAREN Act to ban racially motivated 911 calls

“Mental illness is not a crime, but we call upon the police as first responders in a mental health crisis,” said Linda Rosenberg MSW, Columbia University Department of Psychiatry; Former CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health per the press release.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 03: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press conference about security issues for the marathon following Tuesday’s terrorist attack along a bike path in lower Manhattan on November 3, 2017 in New York City. Eight people were killed and 12 were injured on October 31 when suspect 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov intentionally drove a truck onto a bike path in lower Manhattan. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

“Now, New York City is changing the outdated and dangerous use of police that too often has led to injury and even death. The decision to have health professionals respond to mental health crises underscores New York City’s commitment to caring for not punishing people with mental illnesses.”

As of now the New York Police Department responds to mental health crises and has a reputation of causing more harm than good. NYPD admitted they failed when they shot and killed a mentally ill 66-year-old Black woman in the Bronx in 2016.

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“One in five New Yorkers struggle with a mental health condition. Now, more than ever, we must do everything we can to reach those people before crisis strikes,” said de Blasio. “For the first time in our city’s history, health responders will be the default responders for a person in crisis, making sure those struggling with mental illness receive the help they need.”

New York City isn’t the first city to take this route. This new team will model programs like CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) in Eugene, Oregon which sends out paramedics and crises workers who have mental health training through a non-emergency police line.

It is not clear if this initiative is a part of the defund the police movement protestors demanded in response to police brutality as reported by theGrio back in June, or which “two high-need communities” the program will serve first.

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