Richards, Mayor Address Mental Illness Issues


Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Committee on Public Safety and member of the Crisis Prevention and Response Task Force and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $37 million annual investment to close critical gaps in services for New Yorkers with serious mental illness. Many of the strategies were developed by the NYC Crisis Prevention and Response Task Force, composed of over 80 experts including advocates, city agency leadership and community members who have experienced mental illness. Implementation begins immediately.

“New Yorkers need to know that the city will respond with a strong public health response when their family members, friends or neighbors are suffering from a mental health crisis,” Richards said. “The status quo must change and thankfully the members of the Task Force developed thoughtful policy changes that will reduce 911 calls, expand the efforts of Co-Response Teams, HEAT and Mobile Crisis Teams; and enhance services in communities, shelters and hospitals. This $37 million investment is a critical first step towards addressing serious mental illness with a more compassionate and holistic approach than ever before. I’d like to thank all of the advocates who led this effort and will continue to deliver results for people in crisis, including Carla Rabinowitz and the entire Community Access coalition. I’d also like to thank Mayor de Blasio, Susan Herman, and Dr. Gary Belkin for taking the reins on the Task Force and delivering well-rounded recommendations and policy changes that will truly make a difference for so many New Yorkers across the city.”

To reduce mental health crises that result in 911 calls, $23 million of the annual investment will support new teams of mental health responders that will intervene before crises, respond to urgent situations and stabilize people in the weeks following a crisis. To ensure those with the most serious needs stay connected to treatment, today’s announcement also includes $14 million to expand intensive services for the narrow population of New Yorkers with untreated serious mental illness who pose a risk of violent behavior.

 “One in five New Yorkers suffers from a mental health condition. It’s our job to reach those people before crisis strikes,” Mayor de Blasio said. “With this new investment, we’re connecting people to the services they need and keeping our neighborhoods and most vulnerable New Yorkers safe.”

Mental health 911 calls have nearly doubled in the last decade in New York City, from 97,132 in 2009 to 179,569 in 2018. With the plan announced today, the City is investing in a new approach to mental health crises that includes a strong public health response to a public health problem, enhanced mental health support in communities, and increased focus on mental health at the Police Department.

To reduce these calls, the City will implement a number of plans and programs including adding four Health Engagement Assessment Teams (HEAT), composed of one clinician and one peer (a person who has previously experienced a mental health challenge), to proactively engage people with the most frequent 911 contact, connecting them to care and other stabilizing support; and by  adding six Mobile Crisis Teams composed of clinicians, case managers and peers to ensure better rapid response time to urgent situations.