NYC Rolls Out Plan to Aid Mentally Ill Who Could be Violent

NEW YORK (AP) -

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday unveiled a plan to help New Yorkers suffering from mental illness and who may be a threat to hurt themselves or others.

The program, dubbed NYC Safe, is also an early move to combat increasingly visible homelessness in New York City, an issue that the mayor has said is linked to a lack of adequate care for people with mental illness.

De Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray, who is spearheading mental health initiatives in the city, said better care could lead to a reduction in violence committed by mental illness sufferers on city streets, and in its homeless shelters and jails.

The program will create a “hub” to improve coordination between law enforcement, homeless services and medical providers. The Department of Health will also create a task force to connect with high-risk individuals and make certain they are following through with their treatment.

Officials said the program will provide more training for police officers to deal with emotionally disturbed individuals and install peace officers and clinical staff at city homeless shelters. De Blasio warned New Yorkers not to stigmatize people with mental illness, saying that only a small fraction of them are violent.

“It is clear that many New Yorkers are not getting the help they need now,” said de Blasio. “We have to address the broken mental health system, and we have to revolutionize the way we provide care for those that struggle with mental challenges.”

Safe NYC is the first part of an effort to stem a rising tide of homelessness on the streets of the nation’s largest city, where the homeless population has risen since de Blasio took office in January 2014. The problem has attracted a wave of high-profile tabloid criticism, with the New York Post setting up a countdown clock to when the mayor’s term ends.