Local headlines in recent years have highlighted how a 911 call for assistance with someone exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness can end in tragedy. In New York City, at least 14 people with mental illnesses have been fatally shot by NYPD officers in the last three years. At the same time, 911 calls reporting “emotionally disturbed persons” have been on the rise, particularly in communities of color, a recent investigation by local news outlet The City found.
The city’s 24 mobile crisis teams (19 for adults and five for children) have so far demonstrated some clear benefits over police response to mental health calls. Mostly run by hospitals, their employees wear plainclothes, travel in vans, and don’t carry any weapons. And they tend to address people’s mental health crises very differently: While more than half of the city’s 911 calls related to mental health result in someone being taken to the emergency room—an ordeal that can be time-consuming for police and a revolving door for patients—only 2.3 percent of mobile crisis team visits last year ended in a trip to the ER, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Instead, they typically seek to conduct a mental health assessment on the spot, refer people to behavioral health resources in the community, and then follow up a few days later.
Image editorial credit: Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com
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