New York City is launching a new pilot program in 2021 that will send mental health experts instead of cops to respond to 911 calls that are mental health-related and considered nonviolent.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the new program on Monday. The program will dispatch Emergency Medical Services health professionals and mental health crisis workers to certain 911 calls in two high-need communities which have not yet been named.
Currently, NYPD officers and FDNY EMTs respond to nearly all mental health-related 911 calls. This new program will launch in February 2021. It will feature professionals trained to de-escalate emergencies such as suicide attempts, substance misuse, and severe mental illness cases.
In serious crises where a weapon is involved, or there is believed to be an imminent risk of harm, the mental health teams will then be joined by NYPD officers.
“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,” the mayor said in a statement. “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.”