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NYC Pilot Tries Mental Health Responders in Place of Police

The city joins Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver in testing out new law enforcement alternatives. 

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Photographer: zocik/iStockphoto

New York City plans to test out a program where dispatchers send out emergency medical services and mental health crisis workers, instead of police officers, to mental health-related calls, making it the latest city to attempt a pivot away from policing as a cure-all.

The city’s mental health teams will work in two high-need communities starting in February. They will include health professionals and crisis workers from the fire department’s emergency medical services division. They will respond in place of the traditional police and paramedic teams, except in cases that involve a weapon or imminent danger, according to a statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office this week.