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Project Alliance Press Conference

 

You may also go to YouTube to watch the full briefing.

In response to the Westchester County Police Reform & Reimagining Task Force report to the Governor, the County is announcing Project Alliance.  Project Alliance represents a five-prong approach developed by Westchester County Executive George Latimer with the Department of Community Mental Health, Department of Public Safety, Department of Emergency Services and Department of Social Services to address the needs of Westchester County residents with behavioral health challenges. 

The five prongs:

Latimer said: “I applaud the Westchester County Police Reform & Reimagining Task Force, the Department of Community Mental Health, the Department Public Safety, the Department of Emergency Services and the Department of Social Services for recognizing that changes in how we approach mental health, in all facets of our community, need to happen and need to happen quickly.  This is a bold step, and an innovative approach, to better address behavioral health emergencies when they develop. Project Alliance will make this County safer by better addressing the root issue.”

Westchester County Police Reform & Reimagining Task Force Co-Chair Mayo Bartlett said: “While all of the Task Force recommendations are important, addressing police interaction with people who suffer from mental illness is invaluable. I am encouraged by the commitment to have a comprehensive response to mental illness by coordinating multiple disciplines. In my estimation, it will focus on treatment, and will reduce the number of incidents that lead to unnecessary law enforcement interaction with people who may need assistance due to a mental health crisis. The initiative will also increase the training that members of law enforcement will receive with respect to how to respond to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis, as well as how 911 calls are screened by dispatchers, helping to ensure that appropriate services are requested.  The effort will ultimately lead to the County-wide availability of trained mobile mental health units comprised of mental health professionals and members of law enforcement to address a potential mental health crisis.”

Westchester County Police Reform & Reimagining Task Force Co-Chair Leroy Frazer said: Enhanced training in many areas of criminal justice was a common thread of the Task Forces’ recommendations. I applaud the agencies working together through Project Alliance, under the leadership and direction of County Executive Latimer, in expanding existing resources to address this important issue.  This extraordinary preparedness demonstrates the county’s seriousness in addressing potential mental health crises.

Department of Community Mental Health Commissioner Michael Orth said: “For nearly 20 years, the Department of Community Mental Health has partnered with law enforcement around Westchester to help address behavioral health emergencies when they arise. Through the foresight of County Executive Latimer, and the collaboration of our department and colleague departments, as well as our various partners in the community, Project Alliance will create a first-of-its-kind seamless system of crisis response. Through Project Alliance, our community members, law enforcement personnel and service providers will become safer and better connected.”

Public Safety Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason said: “The more resources that are available to respond when persons are in emotional crisis the better. We look forward to working in partnership with all those involved in Project Alliance to ensure the safest and most effective outcome in these challenging incidents.”

Department of Emergency Services Commissioner Richard Wishnie said: “From the start this has been a collaborative effort and the results will be a better outcome for those who suffer from mental health issues.  I applaud County Executive George Latimer for focusing on mental health in a proactive and innovative way to benefit us all.”

Department of Social Services Commissioner Leonard Townes said: “This is a significant collaboration that is a major step in the right direction to better service the community, particularly those dealing with behavioral health challenges.”  

Westchester County Legislator Colin Smith said: "When the Task Force made its recommendations, this is exactly the type of program we had in mind: a creative, cooperative bringing together of resources from across departments to do things in new ways.  This innovative effort -- to respond to emergencies where mental health expertise, not just police expertise, is called for -- will literally be a lifesaver. I commend the County Executive and the departmental leadership for refusing to continue doing business as usual and instead taking steps to really put into practice the job of reimagining and reform."

Westchester County Legislator Terry Clements said: "Often police are called into emergencies where the crisis they encounter is a mental health crisis. It's a different situation than being called to, say, the scene of a robbery. At the Task Force, we recognized that the County has outstanding resources in our Department of Community Mental Health and our Department of Social Services. Our challenge was to deploy these resources, in cooperation with police, in an emergency moment, in a way that is safe and appropriately responsive to the crisis at hand. Project Alliance is designed to do just that and I want to thank County Executive Latimer, Commissioners Orth, Gleason, Wishnie and Townes for their cooperation and creativity in developing this innovative program."

911 Dispatch Diversion Training
Westchester County will provide training to all law enforcement agencies on 911 Diversion.  This training is based on a model developed in Broome County/Binghamton and creates a fourth option for emergency response, adding Behavioral Health to the existing police, fire and medical responses.  This on-going training is offered in two phases: (1) Offered to County dispatchers and (2) available to all law enforcement agencies in the County.  There is no charge for the training.

Enhanced Training for EMT on Responding to Behavioral Health Issues
To enhance and expand training for EMTs and paramedics in responding to a mental health crisis, Wishnie and Orth developed a specialized crisis training to members of the EMS community.  This training module will be ready for implementation late fall.

Enhancement of Countywide Behavioral Health Crisis Response Line
The County has collaborated with St. Vincent’s Hospital to expand the existing Crisis Prevention and Response services to include support for 911-Diversion Behavioral Health Crisis phone services and to support the newly created National 988 Suicide Prevention Line.  Service would be 24/7 for residents experiencing behavioral health crisis, concerned family members, other providers and law enforcement / 911 dispatchers. Full implementation of the response line will occur by early 2022. It is believed that many of the crisis calls diverted to the crisis line will be successfully resolved without having to mobilize any resources to the scene.

Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Trainings
Westchester County has provided CIT training to law enforcement agencies in Westchester and neighboring departments for many years. Under Project Alliance, this Police-based crisis intervention training will prepare more officers and other first responders to manage crises involving people with mental illness effectively.  The training also improves their understanding and accessibility of the public mental health system, while promoting officer safety and the safety of the individual in crisis. Training is available to recruits and seasoned officers with a more in-depth in-service training, as well as being expanded to EMS and 911 dispatchers.

Mobile Crisis Response Teams (MCRT)
An innovative partnership between the mental health system and law enforcement in responding to the needs of residents experiencing mental health crisis.  MCRTs consists of staff who have substantial training and experience in addressing mental health and substance use systems.  Their primary role of MCRTs is to support law enforcement in addressing mental health crisis by rapid engagement, assessment of needs, and providing short-term support and linkage to necessary services.

The goal is to establish eight teams throughout Westchester County.  There will be three teams established in 2021 and five teams in 2022. Each team will serve a defined catchment area, providing 24/7 crisis response, ultimately providing this service across all of Westchester.

Three teams in 2021: Mount Kisco, Port Chester & New Rochelle

Five teams in 2022: Ossining, Peekskill, White Plains/Greenburgh, Mount Vernon, Yonkers