Piloting an Alternative Mental Health Crisis Response Model
Special Projects Fund
September 30, 2021
Nearly one in five New Yorkers lives with a mental illness, and many more live with unaddressed and undiagnosed behavioral health needs.
In recent decades there have been reductions in behavioral health services as a result of deinstitutionalization and a lack of funding for community behavioral health services. Consequently, law enforcement officers often serve as the first responders to mental health crises, many of whom are not properly equipped with the skills to manage these situations. Encounters between police and people in crisis can end with an enforcement action, particularly in communities of color, rather than with connections to needed mental health services. Albany County has launched an alternative crisis response pilot, the Albany County Crisis Officials Responding and Diverting (ACCORD) program, to reduce adverse encounters with law enforcement and coordinate linkages to appropriate health and social services. In 2021, NYSHealth awarded the Research Foundation for SUNY, University at Albany, a grant to test the ACCORD pilot.
Under this grant, the Research Foundation will work with key partners to implement ACCORD and conduct an evaluation of the model. It will partner with the Albany Department of Mental Health to have a social work case manager contact clients and/or caregivers within 48 hours of the crisis and engage them in follow-up services. The case manager will develop individualized care plans, connecting clients to a range of medical and social services to reduce the risk of recurring crises. The Research Foundation will also conduct a comprehensive evaluation of ACCORD, studying key measures such as engagement in behavioral services, changes in health outcomes, social functioning, hospital visits, and reduction in adverse encounters with law enforcement. Results will be used to identify best practices for expansion. It will then develop a training protocol, implementation manual and toolkit, and evaluation data collection tools. Results and tools will be shared widely with behavioral health and law enforcement partners to expand the ACCORD model throughout Albany County, as well as support replication in other parts of the State.