B-Heard in NYC was initiated by Mayor DeBlasio in November 2021 as part of the Thrive NYC Initiative for Police Mental Health Collaboration Programs.
By February 2021 hiring practices were considered difficult because of the training needed but it seems the funding was there to support it and it has popular support. Other states and locations are also considering this program such as Georgia.
The aim is to assist recovery of mental health problems in the long run, but especially with assistance in crisis situations that can be de-escalated with immediacy. A social worker is supposed to be paired with two EMT’s in the NYC program.
“Red Alert: Mental Health Professionals and Police Collaboration”
The Underlying Message
Of course the underlying message is to improve mental health intervention especially to make it clearly distinguishable from potential foolhardy criminalization for unstable folks who need a great deal of emotional support.
Potential Obstacles to Overcome
A problem I foresee is that social workers will work in two shifts from 8 AM to 10 PM but in very precarious situations such as treating patients with communicable diseases, working in very restricted quarters such as trains and buildings in disrepair, battling exhausting excursions up stairs and even to roof tops, bridges, and elevated highways that require not only a great deal of physical exertion but well-planned training for risk-taking situations.
Mental Health is a Societal Problem
Societaly mental health problems need to be viewed as a broad sweeping concern that is very much neglected and avoided and even denied by the general populace.
The salary range quoted in NYC from approximately $61,000 to $71,000 for around the clock care is extremely low for those trained to manage such precarious situations where the risk to their own lives seems likely.
It is also an emotionally exhausting job for any professional who is no longer working in a secured office setting or clinic or hospital where resources are more plentiful.
Social workers in private settings with all the advantages of higher education, supervised training, and physical safety and regular daytime and early evening schedules certainly earn for above these amounts.
Seeking highly trained professions which would be mandatory but low wages realistically would likely result in high turnover and a great deal of wasted time training and retraining social workers who may come and go without proper support, education, and reasonable salaries.
Making a Clear Investment Nationally in Mental Health
The investment must be substantial from the start so that success is found that will quell any opposition. To do this well-planned training, peer supervision, continued education, and groups for de-briefing after highly stressful situations must be set up from the beginning. While with any new intervention or program trial and error is expected, this is a very serious severe situation where data should be collected to prove its effectiveness in the short and long haul if the program is to be sustainable.
Currently, designated host learning sites include Houston, Madison, Portland, Salt Lake City, and Police Departments at the University of Fla Police Station and Arlington, VA.