County Executive Latimer and Dept. of Community Mental Health Give Project Alliance Update
WHITE PLAINS, NY – Under the leadership of Westchester County Executive George Latimer, the Police Reform and Reimagining Task Force, the Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH), Public Safety, Emergency Services and Social Services, and several partner organizations, Project Alliance has made significant progress in the County’s response to people experiencing a behavioral or mental health crisis. The initiative, which first launched in 2021, uses a five-prong approach to create a comprehensive system of crisis intervention.
Project Alliance’s five prongs include:
• 911 Diversion – Diverting 911 crisis calls to qualified mental health professionals
• Enhanced Behavioral Health Line – 988 National Crisis and Suicide Prevention Line, operational 24/7
• Enhanced Training for EMS Personnel – Adult Mental Health First Aid training to police, fire, EMS and military
• Crisis Intervention Team Development – Fundamentals of Crisis Intervention for multiple jurisdictions throughout Westchester, all new police recruits at Westchester County Police Academy
• Mobile Crisis Response Teams (MCRT) – DCMH contracted with five mental health providers to create a partnership with local police departments, and County Government. Each team is responsible for covering a dedicated catchment area, and can provide mutual aid when needed.
Latimer said: “Today we can confidently say that, through a concerted, collaborative effort involving multiple County departments and agencies, we are really seeing a difference in the way our first responders react to mental health crisis. We heard where enhancements were needed, and we digested that information into real, tangible ways to adjust how we approach training, community outreach and mental health needs. Project Alliance is ensuring that whenever possible, a behavioral health emergency is being met with a specific behavioral health response.”
DCMH Commissioner Michael Orth said: “We are greatly appreciative of the County Departments of Public Safety and Emergency Services, local law enforcement, and our community partners for their collaboration in developing a crisis system that is responsive to the behavioral health needs of our residents. Whenever possible, a behavioral health emergency should be met with a behavioral health response. Under the leadership of County Executive Latimer, Project Alliance now provides essential training to law enforcement and first responders, responsive services, and has strengthened our collaboration in our effort to create a seamless system of crisis intervention and diversion here in Westchester.”
• Staff of DCMH, the Crisis Network Team and the MCRT Teams are available by phone 24/7/365
• 755 dispatchers, desk officers and tour commanders have been trained
• 292 callers have been diverted to the Crisis Network Team in 2023
• 4,232 988 Lifeline calls have been made since opening of line July, 2022
• 27 EMS personnel have been trained
• Hundreds of police officers trained
• 1,494 calls for Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) service responded to in 2023.
Westchester County is highlighting the work of the Ossining MCRT Team, who operate in partnership with Family Services of Westchester (FSW), because of their effective collaboration between providers, the County and their local police department.
Ossining Chief of Police Kevin Sylvester said: “This initiative is the best example of intergovernmental cooperation I’ve ever seen. Embedding mental health professionals in police departments for co-response has changed the way we keep people safe. I thank County Executive Latimer for his leadership and recognition of the mental health crisis in our communities”
Director of Family Services of Westchester, MCRT Claire Hurst said: “Our goal, in every encounter, is to spend as much as it takes to build relationship and rapport by establishing trust, understanding that we are often encountering this person on one of their worst days. It is crucial that we offer each person a safe place in which to de-escalate and begin to formulate a long-term plan for supportive community connections. We are grateful to our police department partners for allowing us space to engage with people in crisis in this way.”