Monday, February 22, 2021



 Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams called for passage of his bill to create a three-digit hotline used for mental health emergencies, as an alternative to 911, at a hearing of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction today. The new number - 988 - would help ensure that mental health crises are met by health professionals, rather than law enforcement. Watch the hearing online.

The bill, Intro 2222, would require the Office of Community Mental Health - which would be separately established under legislation from Council Member Diana Ayala - to institute the hotline staffed by mental health call operators. The Office would train call operators in the mental health emergency response protocol and conduct public outreach and education publicizing the 988 number. 

"Mental health should not be seen or responded to as an untreated public threat," said Public Advocate Williams of the bill. "I hope through our legislative process, we can collectively create a crisis response where persons living with mental health diagnosis feel safe in their communities and know they'll receive the proper care that they need. I also hope that we can bring healing to families that have experienced a loss or any trauma as a result of the system we now have in place now." 

In the past six years, at least sixteen people undergoing a mental health crisis were killed by NYPD  officers - notably, fourteen were people of more color. Prominent cases in recent years have included Deborah Danner, Mohamed Bah, Saheed Vassell, Dwayne Jeune, and Kawaski Trawick, among others.

In his 2019 report, Improving New York City's Responses to Individuals in Mental Health Crisis, Public Advocate Williams led calls for mental health crises to be met with a public health response rather than law enforcement. A separate emergency phone line was among the recommendations in that report.

The Public Advocate noted today that the movement to a non-police response in mental health crisis is as complex as it is necessary, saying, "I know this is a difficult conversation. It is one that elicits fear. It is one that changes the dynamic. For too long, our equating of public safety and police has brought us a system that we know needs to be changed. We have to find a system that allows people to bring the tools and expertise they have to the situations at hand."

No comments:

Post a Comment