NEW YORK – The city announced a new program Thursday aimed at supporting people with serious untreated mental illness.
A small portion of these New Yorkers are violent. People who could harm others or themselves.
According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, "Today we are unveiling NYC Safe. Which will protect our city and save people from untold violence and suffering."
He pledged 22 million dollars a year for the program.
Tara Whitaker, a summer parks worker, said she sees the mentally ill homeless in Tompkins Square Park every day. Without police around she is scared. Often they are drunk or on drugs.
"I do get worried a bit when I don't see them or I don't have anybody with me, " Whitaker said.
And while the mentally ill homeless with violent tendencies are most visible, the mayor stressed there are New Yorkers who suffer from this who are rich and poor. They have permanent housing or they live in shelters. No matter where they live, the administration has pledged to reach them
NYC Safe partners the Criminal Justice, Health and Homeless Services Departments. The city has named it the Hub and information sharing is already up and running.
First Lady Charlene McCray spearheaded the effort. "This initiative has been constructed to increase public safety and provide long term solutions for folks who struggle with serious mental illness," she said.
But what about the people who don't want to be helped after they are released from jail or the hospital? The city promised greater outreach. There will be mobile teams that respond with the NYPD.
According to the Department of Health's Gary Belkin, they will treat people where they can "...whether it's in a subway station, whether it's in Rikers Island, whether it follows them back home," he said.
And in extreme cases, that means committing people to area hospitals.
According to the administration, at any given point in New York City there are several hundred people who struggle with severe mental illness and are violent.