NYLPI Disability Justice Program Pushes for Voluntary, Non-Police Response to Mental Health Crises in City Council Hearing

May 13, 2024

CCIT-NYC, Daniel's Law, Disability Justice, Health Justice, News, Transforming Mental Health Crisis Response, de la Cruz vs. NYC

Image shows a NYLPI sign on the steps of New York's Tweed Courthouse in Lower Manhattan

Ruth Lowenkron, Disability Justice director,  Sakeena Trice, senior staff attorney, and William Juhn, senior staff attorney, shared testimony on behalf of the NYLPI’s Disability Justice before the Council of the City of New York’s Committees on Health and Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction.

“NYLPI is deeply concerned about the City’s dangerous and illegal practices relating to the involuntary removal of individuals perceived to have mental illness diagnoses for psychiatric evaluation. Additionally, NYLPI urges the City Council to mandate significant changes in the Behavioral Health  Emergency Assistance Response Division Program (“B-HEARD), as it is a deeply flawed pilot which  merely purports to be a non-police response to people experiencing mental health crises – but in fact is  part of the long tradition of policing, criminalizing, and under- and mis-serving people with mental disabilities.

Funding B-HEARD in its current guise diverts money from what we need – a true non-police crisis response system that dispatches teams of peers (those with lived mental health experience) and  emergency medical technicians who are not City employees, 24/7 operating hours, calls routed through 988, and above all, prioritizes the self-determination of people with mental disabilities. The City must join other cities across the country – including Los Angeles, San Francisco,  Albuquerque, Denver, New Haven and many more – to remove police entirely from the equation, and ensure that healthcare workers respond to healthcare crises. According to NYLPI and Human Rights Watch’s joint-research, there are at least 160+ emergency response programs nationwide that engage in  crisis response activities without police as the initial responders or as automatic co-responders.” – Ruth Lowenkron 

Read the full testimony here.

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