CCITNY Press Release May 15, 2023
AS NYC HOMELESSNESS & MENTAL HEALTH CRISES WORSEN, ADVOCATES DEMAND NON-POLICE, PEER-LED RESPONSE
Current Response Pilot Program, B-HEARD, Requires Changes to Ensure Protection of the City’s Most Vulnerable Residents
NEW YORK, NY (Monday, May 15, 2023) – Correct Crisis Intervention Today – NYC (CCIT-NYC), a coalition of activists, community and non-profit members, and other advocates working to transform the City’s response to the more than 200,000 mental health crisis calls received annually, today held a rally to call for adoption of a non-police, peer-led health team approach.
The rally took place outside City Hall in Lower Manhattan in advance of a joint executive budget hearing held by the Health, Finance and Mental Health, Disabilities and Addictions committees.
In his FY’24 executive budget, Mayor Adams has proposed funding to expand the City’s current crisis response pilot program B-HEARD. Advocates have unanimously criticized how B-HEARD has operated to date, as law enforcement continues to handle more than 80 percent of responses.
CCIT-NYC and its allies strongly advocate that B-HEARD only receive additional funding if the following changes are implemented:
- Use 988 rather than 911 to ensure responses are peer-led and do not involve the police except where there is a substantial likelihood of imminent harm.
- Ensure the number is fully staffed with independent emergency medical technicians and peers (individuals with lived mental health experience), operates 24/7 citywide, and the response time is at least as fast as the City’s response time for other emergencies.
- Require that B-HEARD be community-led and culturally responsive.
“On the heels of the death of Jordan Neely, it is clear that our City’s public mental health system is failing those who need it most,” said Cal Hedigan, CEO, Community Access. “The call for #PeersNotPolice is a rallying cry for investments in non-coercive community services, including ensuring that peers are integral members of crisis response teams.”
“We have seen time and time again that New York City desperately needs a truly non-police, peer-led mental health crises response,” said Pascale Leone, Executive Director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York. “The City’s current pilot program, B-HEARD, is not that – with well over 80 percent of calls are still being responded to by the police. If the City plans to dedicate resources to expand B-HEARD, it must only do so if significant changes are made to the program, starting with the adoption of peers and the exclusion of police through rerouting the program to a number other than 911 like 988.”
“New York City should be seen as a city of character; now it is being seen as a city in crisis,” said Sheina Banatte, Justice for Eudes Pierre. “Most of us are one paycheck, one emergency, one traumatic event away from being the next Jordan Neely, the next Eudes Pierre. How can the Mayor, the Governor, the Attorney General – all those we’ve elected to implement laws and secure funding for workers and for aid; for safer communities and to promote quality of life for us and our families; children – continue to ignore us? The time is now for awareness, change, reform, and healing.”
“If we truly want to put an end to the recurring pattern of innocent lives being taken by the NYPD, it is imperative the City follows the Correct Crisis Intervention Today – New York City (CCIT-NYC) model, which centers peers and has no police involvement,” said Matt Kudish, CEO of NAMI-NYC.
“We urge the Council to mandate fundamental changes to the B-HEARD ‘non-police’ pilot, before approving additional funding for it. B-HEARD continues to result in police responding to well over 80 percent of mental health crisis calls – even more than when the pilot started out over a year ago,” said Ruth Lowenkron, Disability Justice Director at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “The B-HEARD pilot is deeply flawed and must be overhauled immediately to ensure that not one more person experiencing a mental health crisis is killed at the hands of the police.”
“New Yorkers experiencing a mental health crisis deserve a mental health response, which the current B-HEARD program isn’t providing,” said Nadia Chait, Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy at CASES.
Contact: Liz Benjamin, 518-424-0356, [email protected]
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