By Anna Mejorada
“Over the past two years, there has been an increase in mental health problems in our community and across the city,” said Co-Chair Sheldon Fine at a recent meeting of Community Board 7’s Health & Human Services Committee. “Consequently, there is an urgency for all levels of government to approve programs that support the mental health and wellness of New Yorkers. We cannot allow the status quo to continue.”
Fine then walked the committee through an outline of the resolution they are crafting. Items of significance and urgency include:
- Reverse the closure of inpatient psychiatric beds
- Expand mobile mental health crisis response teams
- Increase crisis stabilization centers
- Build more supportive housing with mental health services
- Embrace and expand the ‘clubhouse model’ of rehabilitation
- Revamp discharge planning for formerly incarcerated New Yorkers
- Increase school-based behavioral health options
- Redirect ThriveNYC funds to address serious mental illness
Jason Hansman, from Mayor Eric Adam’s office, next described existing services to help New Yorkers quickly connect with mental health help, including a new service, in addition to 311 and 911, called NYC Well. Here is when to use each:
311 is accessible via phone, text, or mobile app for non-life threatening issues, including when someone who may be homeless needs support. A street outreach team will assess the situation onsite and offer assistance as well as transportation to housing.
911, via phone or text, should only be used if someone’s life is in imminent danger, or they are in immediate risk of harming themselves or others.
NYC Well is a new service New Yorkers can use to speak with a professional immediately. They are encouraged to call or text when they or someone around them is experiencing an urgent mental health crisis. They will be connected with a counselor who has experience handling mental health issues and, if necessary, can send out a Mobile Crisis Team that can provide behavioral support, de-escalation, assessment, and connection to ongoing care. Services are available in English, Spanish, and Chinese, with interpretation available in additional languages.
Call: 1-888-NYC-Well (692-9355)
Text: WELL to 65173
Chat online: nyc.gov/nycwell
Co-chair Fine shared a personal account of connecting a distraught woman he encountered in the community with NYC Well for assistance dealing with a personal issue. He later ran into the same woman and she expressed gratitude for the help she had received.
Hansman then introduced two successful pilot programs, B-HEARD – The Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division, and CONNECT – Continuous Engagement between Community and Clinic Treatment .
B-HEARD was created to respond to 911 mental health calls. Currently available within nine precincts, 911 dispatchers are empowered to determine if the situation would benefit from a team of mental health professionals, including EMTs/paramedics. Since launch in November 2021, 20% of 911 calls have been routed to B-HEARD, resulting in fewer hospitalizations. Of those served by B-HEARD, 92% have accepted mental health-related services onsite, with 22% receiving transport to community-based care. In the coming months, B-HEARD will expand to two additional police precincts in the South Bronx. Roll out to precincts within the Upper West Side has yet to be determined. (Source: NYC Mayor’s Office of Community Health.)
CONNECT looks to bridge gaps in the mental health care system, move beyond the traditional clinic role, and be responsive to the root causes of mental health challenges. Currently nine clinic sites in high-need areas throughout The Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn have been identified for this pilot and are accepting referrals.
Additionally, 988, a nationwide Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, is expected to be in place in NYC within the next few months.
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine also spoke at the meeting, emphasizing the need for more in-school mental health help for students, improved outreach among the homeless community, and an urgent need for more hospital beds devoted to psychiatric care.