Services of Westchester County Set to Launch Mobile Mental Health Crisis Response Team in Ossining

Westchester County Executive announces the Project Alliance program (Photo: Westchester County)

Services of Westchester County (FSW) will shortly launch mobile crisis response teams that will partner with the Ossining police department and surrounding communities to support those struggling with a mental health crisis. A similar program will launch in Port Chester.

It’s part of Westchester County’s new Project Alliance, which was established as a response to the needs of those individuals who are in emotional distress or crisis and need the kind of help that police officers are not trained to provide.  In addition to FSW’s partnership with police departments in these two cities, all police departments in the county included in the grant will be paired with local mental health agencies.

“We will be offering the police departments a fourth option in responding to emergencies,” said Claire Hurst, who will supervise the program at FSW and serve as a clinical coordinator for one of the teams.  “In addition to fire, police or EMS, there will now be a mental health option that dispatchers can offer to 9-1-1 callers.”

Each FSW team will include a mental health clinician (typically a social worker or a mental health counselor) to assess and diagnose the individual and a peer who, according to Hurst, “has lived the experience and is now functioning in a healthy way and can identify with the individual.”  The team, which will be co-located in the local police department, will drive cars and wear uniforms with identification that will clearly identify them. They will be available 24/7.  Each car will include at least one team member who is bilingual (speaking English and Spanish).

“Our job will be to access the situation and de-escalate it and help stabilize the individual who might be in emotional distress or emotional crisis and behaving erratically,” said Hurst.  “We are also looking to provide aftercare, so people are not cycling through 9-1-1 every few months.”

She said that FSW has been identifying local service providers with whom they can provide appropriate handoffs to after the initial intervention.  This would include organizations that offer support in housing, day care, social services, etc.

Hurst said that FSW is still in the process of actively hiring candidates for these positions. The program is scheduled to begin next month.

 

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