City Hall has decided to divert all non-violent mental health calls from the NYPD. A new program will be launched in Harlem and East Harlem. After three months of rolling out the program, the effort didn’t even have a name.
NYC will appoint specially trained teams of Fire Department paramedics in the new initiative. Simultaneously, the city social workers will respond to non-violent emotional distress reports of the 25th, 28th, and 32nd Precincts. It will cover both the Upper Manhattan neighborhoods.
Under the umbrella of the $1 billion ThriveNYC mental health effort fronted by First Lady Chirlane McCray comes the pilot program. In November 2015, it was launched to tackle Big Apple’s intertwined homelessness and mental health crisis.
A public awareness campaign featuring McCray was the initial predominant focus of the project. NYC established a training program for the municipal workforce, and a referral line was set up that connects to New York therapists. All this was done to protect the broader public and in the understanding that treating mental illness would prevent escalation. However, the program faced intense scrutiny very quickly.