First-of-its Kind Program to Provide Joint Response to Vulnerable Adults in a Mental Health Crisis

In a first-of-its-kind program in New York State, the Westchester County Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH) and Social Services (DSS) are joining together to help adults at risk of neglect and abuse, who are also suffering with mental health needs. The departments will begin to jointly respond to calls for assistance for adults who are neglected or abused, and also potentially living with serious behavioral health issues. While DCMH and DSS work under separate state divisions, Westchester County has found that a joint response to the most serious cases produces more effective results for people in need. The staff person starts the position on Monday, July 24.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “I am proud that in Westchester County, we have developed a model that collaboratively addresses what has become a real need in our communities. We have found that often times, someone who may be trapped in an abusive situation could also be suffering from a serious mental health need. Handling these types of cases requires a very specific response, beginning with de-escalating an immediate crisis, and then connecting an individual to the appropriate services.”   

Developed by Westchester County employees including DCMH Deputy Commissioner Joseph A. Glazer, and DSS leadership staff, the model combines the skill and function of two separate entities into one cross-systems response.  DSS’ Adult Protective Services (APS) provides assistance and services to adults who are vulnerable, and at risk of neglect or abuse. DCMH’s Single Point of Access (SPOA) is responsible for connecting individuals with serious mental health diagnoses to the appropriate services.

In 2021, DCMH and DSS began assessing and co-responding to situations where there exists a likelihood that both may be responsible for providing intervention, services and connective supports to vulnerable people in the community. Moving forward, a staff person from SPOA will be embedded with the staff in APS, working together to find better solutions and coordinated services for those most at risk.

DCMH Commissioner Michael Orth said: “As a County and as a department, we know we can do more when we work collaboratively. This is one example of our ability to pool the resources we have to better serve the people in our collective mission.”

DSS Commissioner Leonard Townes said: “This kind of interdepartmental collaboration allows us to better address the needs of some of Westchester most vulnerable people with a faster and more focused response. It also shows the kind of initiative and ingenuity we have in our staff at DSS and DCMH, who are thinking outside the box to find better and more efficient ways to help Country residents.  I want to thank Deputy Commissioner Glazer and DSS APS Manager Kym Megna for going above and beyond to develop this program.”

DCMH Deputy Commissioner Joseph A. Glazer said: “This new model was born of necessity. During and after the COVID lockdown, as the number of overlapping calls between SPOA and APS grew, we decided to put our heads together and figure out the best ways to collaborate. This new model, where a DCMH employee will be embedded right in APS, will better serve some of the most vulnerable people in our county. I applaud our partners in DSS for helping make this work.”

The APS/SPOA co-response model will provide the following:

  • More timely, thorough and complete response
  • More efficient use of resources
  • The potential to reduce the growing number of Court-ordered Legal Guardianships currently being filed by Westchester County, a costly and difficult way to put someone in charge of another person’s right to make their own decisions