New Bronx clinic will offer "urgent" mental health services

Updated 2 years ago on October 17, 2022

A short-term treatment center that opened its doors in the Bronx on Wednesday will give New Yorkers with mental health and substance abuse problems "immediate" access to services, Mayor Eric Adams said.

For decades, the city has relied on NYPD officers to respond to mental health crises - and offered few alternatives to emergency departments for people in crisis and seeking help, Adams said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

The mayor said the new Bronx Support and Liaison Center, located at 3050 White Plains Rd. near Gun Hill Homes in the Bronx, will support the city's efforts to shift crisis response efforts from those tracks.

"The answer to mental health crises is not public safety measures. It's a public health response," he said. "And changing that dynamic is critical."

"A mental health crisis is not a crime," he added. "It's a crime not to give people the services they need when they're going through a mental health crisis."

The new facility will offer "robust clinical services" through the nonprofit Samaritan Daytop Village, including primary and psychiatric care, counseling, medical evaluations and withdrawal treatment, Adams said in a press release.

The center, which will serve as a "sister site" for the East Harlem Support and Communication Center at 179 E. 116th St., has showers, laundry facilities and access to food, the release said. Visitors will be able to stay there for "several hours to several days, depending on the needs of the community member," the release noted.

The NYPD has come under fire time and again for the way it responds to calls from people experiencing mental health crises. Deborah Danner and Kawaski Trawick are among those who have been fatally shot by police during incidents that their families say were simply cries for help.

Last year, the city rolled out a pilot program in Harlem called B-HEARD (short for Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division), which it says will provide a "health-oriented response to mental health 911 calls."

As part of the program, some 911 calls were answered by "B-HEARD teams," made up of emergency physicians, paramedics and mental health professionals from NYC Health + Hospitals.

Earlier this year, the Adams administration said it would expand the program to the South Bronx as well as Washington Heights.

The new clinic in the Bronx is designed to enhance the city's current efforts by serving patients referred to it by B-HEARD groups, City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said at a briefing.

However, according to Vasan, he would also welcome visits from visitors.

"Ultimately, we want to accept people who are directly referred and brought here as an alternative to other carceral or other referrals," he explained. "But we also want people to feel like they can just walk through the front door and get help when they need it."

According to Vassan, the Bronx has "one of the highest rates of psychiatric hospitalizations in the city," as well as a high number of 911 calls reporting mental health crises.

Adams noted Wednesday that "the crisis does not affect the appointment."

"Crisis doesn't wait and say, 'Look, I want to affect you on Monday at 3 o'clock.' No, it hits you," he said. "You have to have a place you can turn to when this crisis hits you."

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