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NYC announces mental health program to launch in Harlem

City Hall has finally decided that its new program to divert non-violent mental health calls from the NYPD will launch in Harlem and East Harlem — three months after rolling out the new program with so few details the effort didn’t even have a name.

The new initiative will have specially trained teams of Fire Department paramedics and city social workers respond to reports of non-violent emotional distress in the 25th, 28th and 32nd Precincts, which cover both Upper Manhattan neighborhoods.

The neighborhoods were first reported by New York 1.

The pilot program was initially supposed to launch in February, which is nearly over.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to provide an update when pressed during his daily briefing Monday except to say that there were “a few last details that are being put together.”

“We are working with ThriveNYC on this pilot to ensure that the appropriate agency responds to people in mental health crisis,” said a Police Department spokesman on Tuesday.

The pilot program is under the umbrella of City Hall’s $1 billion ThriveNYC mental health effort fronted by First Lady Chirlane McCray, which was launched to great fanfare in November 2015 as a way to tackle the Big Apple’s intertwined homelessness and mental health crises.

Fire Department paramedics and city social workers will respond to reports of non-violent emotional distress in the 25th, 28th and 32nd Precincts.
Fire Department paramedics and city social workers will respond to reports of non-violent emotional distress in the 25th, 28th and 32nd Precincts.
Stefan Jeremiah for NY Post

The effort initially predominately focused on a public awareness campaign that prominently featured the McCray, established a training programs for the municipal workforce and set up a referral line to connect New Yorkers to therapists and psychiatrists — all under the theory that catching and treating mental illness early would prevent escalation and protect the broader public.

But the program came under intense scrutiny quickly.

ThriveNYC has been the subject of much scrutiny.
ThriveNYC has been the subject of much scrutiny.
Stefan Jeremiah for NY Post

The city’s shelter population continued to balloon, eventually cresting at more than 59,000 people, all while social media brought new attention to public episodes of mental distress, particularly on trains and subway platforms.

City Hall either failed to measure or refused to release metrics on what, if any, success Thrive’s roughly $250 million annual budget could show in tackling either problem.

Critics also pointed out that the program gave McCray a massive platform as she pondered a potential run for Brooklyn borough president. She ultimately did not run.


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