New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and his wife, first lady Chirlane McCray, have announced a new pilot program for parts of the Big Apple that will see mental health teams deployed in lieu of police officers in response to some emergency calls.
What are the details?
A news release sent out by the mayor's office on Tuesday explained that "Mental Health Teams of Emergency Medical Services health professionals and mental health crisis workers will be dispatched through 911 to respond to mental health emergencies in two high-need communities."
The news alert did not reveal which "high-need communities" would serve as the testing grounds for the initiative, but did explain that the "new Mental Health Teams will use their physical and mental health expertise, and experience in crisis response to de-escalate emergency situations, will help reduce the number of times police will need to respond to 911 mental health calls in these precincts."
However, the mayor's office noted, "In emergency situations involving a weapon or imminent risk of harm, the new Mental Health Teams will respond along with 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," de Blasio 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."
The New York Post reported that during a news conference on the project, de Blasio and McCray "revealed scant details" on the unnamed plan, and that "the pair also failed to reveal how much the project will cost or how many workers it will involve."
What does the police union say?
Meanwhile, the union representing NYPD police officers slammed the mayor and first lady's latest idea.
"Police officers know that we cannot single-handedly solve our city's mental-health disaster, but this plan will not do that, either," Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said in a statement. "It will undoubtedly put our already overtaxed EMS colleagues in dangerous situations without police support."
Lynch argued, "We need a complete overhaul of the rest of our mental-health-care system so that we can help people before they are in crisis, rather than just picking up the pieces afterward."
"On that front, the de Blasio administration has done nothing but waste time and money with ThriveNYC and similar programs," he continued, referring to the highly criticized $850 million mental health initiative ran by McCray, which will operate the pilot program.
Lynch added, "We have no confidence that this long-delayed plan will produce any better results."