City rolls out pilot program to help NYPD deal with mental health crises, 911 calls

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray on Tuesday announced the city is rolling out new "911 EMS Mental Health Teams."

“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.”

According to McCray, the pilot program is set to launch in February 2021 in two "high need communities," and will respond to a "range of behavioral health problems."

Each team will consist of EMS health professionals and a mental health crisis worker.

"There is a myth out there that people who suffer from a mental illness are violent, and that is one of the thing that we've worked very hard to dispel," McCray said.

NYC Health and hospitals will help train new Mental Health Teams and provide ongoing case conferencing so that the NYPD will no longer be the default to response to non-violent situations related to mental health.

Currently, NYPD officers and FDNY emergency officials 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.

The pilot allows for the new Mental Health Teams of health professionals and crisis workers from FDNY Emergency Medical Services to be the default response to mental health emergencies in two high-need precincts.

In emergency situations involving a weapon or imminent risk of harm, the new Mental Health Teams will respond along with NYPD officers.

The announcement is a response to a long-running push to remove the NYPD from mental health crisis response and will cover a range of behavioral health problems.

The mayor noted that most individuals with psychiatric concerns are more victims and at risk of harming themselves.

The two neighborhoods have not yet been determined but will be chosen based off of high levels of 911 emergency mental health calls and will be announced over the next couple of months.

Those seeking help can do so free of cost at 888-NYC-WELL.