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Report: NY 988 services rank high, but can be improved

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While New York’s 988 services rank highly, a new report showed improvements can be made.

The report found New York has an 88% response rate for 988 calls, slightly below the 90% standard. The report and some experts feel some improvements can be made.

Shadey Mercado-Perez, communication and public relations manager for the National Alliance on Mental Illness-New York State, thinks a person has to see themselves well-represented in the crisis response team, adding it all starts with hope.

“It’s you and your experiences and how you can bring the human person to these very scary moments,” Mercado-Perez pointed out. “How you can bring that humanity back to those very scary moments, and provide hope to many individuals who honestly sometimes just don’t have any hope.”

A major improvement can be state-funded cultural competency training for operators so they can fully understand some callers. She noted it can help reduce suicide rates for adolescent Black men which skyrocketed between 2018 and 2022. Another idea is having peers on the crisis response team, so people are not so alone with their mental health.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

The overall goal is to reduce the effects of deficient crisis response. Since 2015, almost one in five fatal police shootings involved a person experiencing a mental health emergency.

Angela Kimball, chief advocacy officer for the mental health advocacy organization Inseparable, said too often there is a tragic outcome when people cannot get the help they need.

“At a less severe level, we see a lot of people who end up in crowded emergency departments,” Kimball observed. “Frankly, emergency departments are getting so filled up with people with severe mental health challenges that they’re experiencing something called ED boarding.”

ED boarding is when children and adults wait in an emergency department for days to be placed. She noted their conditions could deteriorate, leading them to be put in jail. People with mental health conditions are at a higher risk of being incarcerated, as almost four in 10 people in jail or prison have a mental health condition.

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