Mayor Must Provide More Info on Mental Health Crisis Response Program

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams responded to Mayor Bill de Blasio's recently announced pilot program for mental health crisi
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Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams responded to Mayor Bill de Blasio's recently announced pilot program for mental health crisis response Thursday, challenging the administration to provide more clarity and details for the design and implementation of the program.

In a letter to the Mayor, the Public Advocate calls the announcement "a meaningful step in the right direction," but points to his own 2019 report, 'Improving New York City's Responses to Individuals in Mental Health Crisis,' as a blueprint to effectively prioritize and facilitate a non-police response to mental health crises. While the Mayor's pilot program appears to adopt some of the recommendations in the report, such as a 2-hour response time and a default to non-police response, there are several areas in which they differ.

In distinction to the Mayor's pilot announcement, the Public Advocate's report calls for, among other things:

  • A memorable three digit alternative number to 9-1-1, meant for NYC-WELL calls
  • Expanded training for NYC-WELL operators and staffing for mobile crisis response
  • Minimal engagement with policing, the criminal justice system, or hospitalization
  • Directly combining acute emergency response with long-term sustained care
  • Collaboration with community organizations and mental health peers in both designing the system and responding to crises
  • Culturally competent community outreach and public information campaigns, especially as related to race and language fluency

The Public Advocate also sought further information from the administration about the implementation of the Mayor's pilot program, including how 9-1-1 operators will be trained to distinguish between police and non-police health emergencies, the makeup of crisis response teams, cultural competency in response, and the level of follow-up and post-crisis engagement. He asks that advocates largely left out of the original announcement process be included in both the planning and implementation of the program moving forward.

The full letter to the Mayor can be downloaded here, and the Public Advocate's 2019 report is available online. A visual summary of the plan can be found here.


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