NEW YORK — A pilot program that has kept New York Police Department officers away from many mental health crisis calls in parts of Manhattan will expand to every precinct citywide, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on April 26.
The program, tested this spring in three Harlem and East Harlem police precincts, relies on social workers and Emergency Medical Service personnel to respond to non-violent mental health crisis calls.
“We’re now convinced that this approach is going to work citywide,” de Blasio said of the program during a budget briefing. “So, for mental health crisis calls, we’re going to take that civilian approach and use it in all precincts in the city in the course of the upcoming fiscal year.”
More than 150,000 calls for help with mental illness came in to 911 dispatchers last year alone.
Police responses to some calls in the city have escalated to violence or even death, including the shooting deaths of Miguel Richards, Susan Muller and Deborah Danner. All of them suffered from mental illness; all were shot by NYPD officers during encounters inside their homes.