All too often, instead of a specialized social care worker, emergency calls related to issues of mental health are inadequately addressed by the police. In New York City, though, that will soon no longer be the case.
Thanks to a new pilot program, 911 calls in New York City that are evidently mental health-related will be taken care of by mental health and crisis workers instead of law enforcement. The move is the result of months of protests around the country over police brutality, sparked by the tragic death of George Floyd.
The program, expected to start in February, will be composed of new mental health teams from the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the responders would have the expertise to deal with a range of situations, such as suicide attempts and drug abuse. In cases where there is a weapon involved, the responders will be accompanied by a police officer.
“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,” said de Blasio.
The program is modeled after similar schemes in other cities, including one in Eugene, Oregon, where mental health emergency calls are addressed by unarmed mental health professionals. Now that NYC has also adopted it, hopefully, more cities across the country will follow suit.