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New York City Trialling Police-Free Response To 911 Mental Health Calls

by : Mike Williams on :
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New York City is set to trial a new mental health first responder service, which will see trained staff help those in need rather than be dealt with by law enforcement.

The progressive move, which was announced on Tuesday, November 10, will comprise of the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services unit, and will primarily focus on two ‘high-need’ neighbourhoods that have not yet been revealed.

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The pilot scheme takes effect as of February 2021, and will see those calling 911 with mental health-related issues attended to by fully trained professionals, who are more adept at dealing with cases relating to problems such as suicide, drug abuse, and physical issues pertaining to mental health.

‘For the first time in our city’s history, health responders will be the default responders for a person in crisis, making sure those struggling with mental illness receive the help they need,’ announced New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Jacob BlakePA

The new team will attend related call-outs and will be accompanied by a police officer only if the situation is deemed to be violent or dangerous, citing their presence if there is an ‘imminent risk of harm’.

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The trial follows in the footsteps of a similar initiative set up in Eugene, Oregon, where unarmed, trained mental health professionals attend certain call outs instead of police.

With a nationwide call for police reform since George Floyd was murdered by a police officer kneeling on his neck in May, some areas of law enforcement are beginning to restructure how they deal with certain cases.

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Police throughout the US have long been criticised over brutality and systemic racism, which look set to be addressed further under the Biden administration. How issues concerning mental health are addressed could be a massive leap in reshaping the negative perception some have of the police.

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The demand to defund the police has been met with fierce opposition, despite the concept meaning to refunnel funding directly into community efforts as opposed to a literal interpretation of removing all money from law enforcement.

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Topics: News, Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, Joe Biden, Mental Health, Now, NYPD, police brutality, Racism