AP NEWS

New York City expands mobile program to reach mentally ill

December 23, 2019 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City is expanding a program to use mobile units to reach hundreds of people who are mentally ill, the city announced Monday.

The city said in a release that it will spend $9.4 million to boost its mobile mental health treatment teams, which were launched in 2016.

The city said the new money will be part of a $21 million investment that will lead to the hiring of more social workers, housing specialists and legal assistance employees. The additional workers will be needed to process the 20% increase in mental health referrals the effort is expected to generate, the city said, adding that it will likely reach 900 more people annually.

In addition, the city said it plans to spend $11 million to create hospital-based outreach teams to coordinate care for people who frequent emergency rooms and acute care facilities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the initiative will keep neighborhoods safer.

“We have an obligation to address our broken mental health system and do all we can to connect people who are struggling to treatment,” de Blasio said. “That includes the small percentage of those with mental illness that, left untreated, are at risk of committing violence against themselves or others.”

The city said its mobile units are in addition to a program that teams up mental health professionals with police officers who engage clients with serious mental health needs and a history of violence. The goal, it said, is to connect those individuals to professional treatment and support systems such as housing or family.