In an effort to reduce deadly encounters between the New York Police Department and people experiencing psychiatric crises, trained mental health workers will start joining police in responding to 911 calls. This comes as part of a $37 million plan announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in October. The changes to the department come in response to the fatal shooting of Saheed Vassell in April of 2018. Officers shot Vassell after believing the pipe he was waving was a gun. Many believe that Vassell’s death could have been prevented if officers had been trained on how to handle his mental illness.
This new initiative will focus on two “high-need” precincts in the city, the 25th in Manhattan’s East Harlem and the 47th in the north Bronx. These precincts will get "Co-Response Teams," which will consist of a pair of police officers and a counselor. The teams will be used to replace the policy of currently sending officers or paramedics to a call involving a mental health crisis.Many officers are not appropriately trained on how to deal with individuals in psychiatric crisis. Having someone available with specialized training can help reduce the need for force and may prevent arrests.
Behavioral Health Unit
In addition, the NYPD will create a Behavioral Health Unit, which will help provide much-needed training to the department's Emergency Services Unit. The trainers will consist of newly hired Health Department workers and individuals who have previously struggled with mental health issues.
Change in Terminology
The acronym "EDP," short for "emotionally disturbed person," will also be phased out. This is part of an effort by the NYPD to take a more sensitive approach toward handling individuals with mental illness. EDPs will now be referred to as "mental health calls." This comes in the wake of the fact that the number of 911 calls in the city involving individuals with mental illness has almost doubled since 2009.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.