Rallying for Better Crisis Intervention

Posted on February 26, 2014 by Andrea Roy

Fred Levine, with Senator Kevin Parker (left), addresses the crowd advocating for Crisis Intervention Teams. Fred Levine, with Senator Kevin Parker (left), addresses the crowd advocating for Crisis Intervention Teams.

Last Wednesday, February 19, Fountain House was part of a coalition of more than 50 mental health agencies that joined State Senator Kevin Parker on the steps of City Hall to advocate for the creation of specially trained Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs). Steady rain didn’t deter the speakers and other supporters from drawing attention to this crucial issue.

Crisis Intervention Teams would help the NYPD better respond to the more than 100,000 “emotionally distressed person” (“EDP”) calls that they receive annually. While responding to EDP calls last year, the NYPD reported 56 incidents in which people were accidentally injured or killed by police gunfire. CITs would aim to de-escalate these situations, thereby diverting people experiencing a mental health crisis from the criminal justice system; minimizing the risk of added trauma, injury, or death to these people; and instilling confidence in family members who seek help from emergency services for their loved ones in crisis.
 
The speakers were eloquent and represented different perspectives on the topic. My personal favorites were Sahar Khoshakhlagh and long-time Fountain House friend, Fred Levine. Ms. Khoshakhlagh was accidentally shot by police officers trying to subdue a man behaving erratically in Times Square while experiencing a psychotic episode. (Ironically, the man, Glenn Broadnax, has been charged with assault on the basis that he is responsible for the injury to Ms. Khoshakhlagh and another bystander.) Ms. Khoshakhlagh, coincidentally a mental health worker, now feels that it is her duty to help police better understand how to deal with people in emotional crisis.

Fred Levine offered remarks from his own experience of actually being a person in emotional distress subject to police intervention. The content of his speech was great but even more powerful was his accomplished and articulate demeanor – a potent reminder that, for most people in the midst of crises of this kind, it’s simply a bad moment in time, not their abiding character and certainly not a crime.

The press conference marked the launch of a public awareness campaign to support the passage of the Crisis Intervention Act, a bill introduced by State Senator Kevin Parker that would mandate the creation of CITs. It was exciting to see the Fountain House Advocacy Committee in action at this event. However, legislative battles aren’t won in a day. If you’re a New Yorker interested in this issue, please join us and become part of the Communities for Crisis Teams in NYC coalition.   

Andrea Roy
Communications Director, Fountain House

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