NY eyes 988 number to replace 911 for mental health emergency calls

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On Wednesday witnesses watched a man jump to his death off the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Rochester. Police say he was suffering a mental health crisis and still wearing the hospital clothing from a trip to the emergency room.

“We know that people are suffering and the services aren’t getting there,” said Aileen Gunther, who chairs the mental health committee for the New York State Assembly.

In Albany Tuesday, the committee talked about a sweeping plan to help those who are falling through the cracks in Rochester and across the state.

Instead of calling 911, imagine calling 988, which would set into motion a response focused on a visit to mental health urgent care – instead of a hospital emergency room. Lawmakers and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) are proposing a complete overhaul of the way these cases are handled that will be paid for with federal stimulus money earmarked for mental health response.

“Our goal is to have the vast majority of cases treated by mental health professionals and not law enforcement,” said Dr. Ann Sullivan, commissioner of the New York Office of Mental Health.

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