Photo Courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
“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,” Mayor de Blasio said.
By Forum Staff
New Mental Health Teams of Emergency Medical Services health professionals and mental health crisis workers will be dispatched through 911 to respond to mental health emergencies in two high-need communities, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.
According to the administration, currently, NYPD officers and FDNY Emergency Medical Services Emergency Medical Technicians respond to nearly all mental health 911 calls, regardless of the severity of health needs, whether a crime is involved, or whether there is an imminent risk of violence. In the health-centered pilot announced Tuesday, new Mental Health Teams of health professionals and crisis workers from FDNY Emergency Medical Services will be the default response to mental health emergencies in two high-need precincts.
Beginning in February 2021, new Mental Health Teams will use their physical and mental health expertise, and experience in crisis response to de-escalate emergency situations, will help reduce the number of times police will need to respond to 911 mental health calls in these precincts. These teams will have the expertise to respond to a range of behavioral health problems, such as suicide attempts, substance misuse, and serious mental illness, as well as physical health problems, which can be exacerbated by or mask mental health problems. NYC Health + Hospitals will train and provide ongoing technical assistance and support. In selecting team members for this program, FDNY will prioritize professionals with significant experience with mental health crises.
In emergency situations involving a weapon or imminent risk of harm, the new Mental Health Teams will respond along with NYPD officers. Over 65 percent of all operational staff in NYPD patrol precincts across the City have now been trained in Crisis Intervention Team training, which improves the way officers recognize and respond to behavioral health problems experienced by people they encounter. In all precincts other than the two precincts selected for this pilot, NYPD officers and FDNY Emergency Medical Services EMTs will continue to provide coordinated responses to mental health emergencies.
The new health-centered approach builds on significant work undertaken over the last few years to strengthen mental health crisis prevention and response. In partnership with the NYC Crisis Prevention and Response Task Force, the City is reducing the number of mental health crises that result in 911 calls by expanding the number of mental health teams who can intervene before crises occur and stabilize people in the weeks following a crisis. And to ensure those with the most serious needs stay connected to treatment, the City has also expanded intensive, mobile treatment for New Yorkers with serious mental illness.
“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,” de Blasio said. “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.”