Aug. 25, 2011 -- Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino today announced the creation of a new mobile crisis prevention and response team to improve the delivery of mental health care for county residents. The new team is the result of a private-public partnership with St. Joseph's Medical Center in Yonkers and its Harrison division, St. Vincent's Hospital.

"This early-response approach will allow us to improve outcomes by providing residents with the help they need before their problems escalate, thereby reducing expensive emergency room visits and hospitalizations," said Astorino. "This is an example of medical professionals drawing on their expertise to deliver better care and contain costs at the same time."

Dr. Grant Mitchell, commissioner of Community Mental Health Services, who has led the effort to improve the efficacy and efficiency of mental health services in Westchester said St. Joseph's was selected over four other vendors after a rigorous review of each agency's proposal. The change was initiated after the county was notified in February by Westchester Medical Center that it planned to discontinue its crisis services.

"We are excited to be teaming up with St. Joseph's and St. Vincent's," Mitchell said. "They have a great deal of experience in managing people in crisis and delivering caring, quality mental health services to their patients. In addition to the focus on prevention, we will also have meaningful oversight of how these services are delivered in order to improve services in the future."

Michael J. Spicer, St. Joseph's president and CEO said: "All at St. Joseph's main campus and our St. Vincent's Hospital Westchester Division welcome this opportunity to prevent and resolve psychiatric crises through creative collaboration with community providers and by building on our broad range of mental health services. We appreciate the selection of our proposal and look forward to working closely with the County Department of Community Mental Health to build a very effective and efficient service."

The Crisis Prevention and Response Team will launch in early November, with mental health professionals who will be available around the clock. During the daytime and early evening on weekdays, a mobile team can be dispatched anywhere in Westchester. During other hours, county residents will be able to talk by phone with team members who can help. Alternately, the resident can be brought to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Yonkers, St. Vincent's Hospital in Harrison, or to the closest emergency room for an evaluation.

Mitchell said the team will look for trends and patterns and if there are frequent calls to a particular location, the team will be able to support those in need with additional training or services to address the ongoing issues.

This new crisis prevention and response team will be 100 percent funded by a state grant of $1.5 million from the New York State Office of Mental Health, under contract to the county's mental health department, which will, in turn, contract with St. Joseph's for services. Of this, $1 million will cover the crisis team and $500,000 is budgeted for prevention activities, such as providing in-home treatment and respite services to some patients. The new state funding stream is more flexible and will allow the team to provide individualized services, with no county tax contribution.

"Not only will this model allow us to establish benchmarks to improve the quality of care provided, it will also enhance preventive services without any new county taxpayer funding,'' Mitchell said.

In the interim, Westchester Medical Center, which recently announced it was discontinuing its mobile crisis team, will provide around-the-clock crisis telephonic response through its existing hotline, 493-7075, or residents in need of help can visit the behavioral health center ER at the medical center.