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Mental Health Workers Will Replace Police Response to Some 911 Calls in NYC Pilot

Photo: Stock Unsplash @enginakyurt

Nov. 10, 2020 By Allie Griffin

Mental health experts will be sent out next year instead of police officers in response to 911 calls involving non-violent people experiencing mental illness problems, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

The new plan, which will be piloted in a number of neighborhoods next year, involves dispatching FDNY Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and mental health crisis workers to the scene when non violent mental health episodes take place.

The professionals will replace armed NYPD officers who currently respond to these 911 calls.

“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,” de Blasio said in a statement.

The pilot will launch in two “high-need” precincts in February 2021, de Blasio said — though he didn’t specify which precincts or neighborhoods.

The mental health team will be trained to respond to a variety of mental health calls, such as suicide attempts, substance misuse and serious mental illness episodes — all of which NYPD officers, along with EMTS, currently respond to.

The mental health experts will work to de-escalate the emergency situations to reduce police involvement. However, the mayor said, if there is a situation involving a weapon or risk of harm, the teams will respond along with NYPD officers.

The team members will have ongoing training, technical assistance and support from New York City’s public hospital system, de Blasio said.

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