Experts will fan out to New York City's homeless shelters, into the streets and to other places to treat mentally ill people who exhibit violent behavior, as part of an initiative by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York Times reports. The mayor said the goal of the $22 million NYC Safe was to aggressively reach mentally ill people prone to hurting themselves or others. Agencies including the Department of Homeless Services and the New York Police Department will share information with one another about those people to make sure they are being treated. About $5 million of the funding will go toward increasing security around and inside homeless shelters.
The initiative follows the killing of a shelter director by a former resident in April, as well as stories about vagrants harassing or offending passers-by. The episodes, coupled with a public perception that homelessness is worsening, have been problematic for de Blasio as he struggles to assure the public that the city remains safe while trying to destigmatize mental illness. De Blasio said the news media were portraying the initiative as a program for homeless people, but he said it was more about helping people with serious mental illness. The initiative involves creating teams of clinicians, police officers, and other professionals to help groups of people who have untreated mental illnesses. There will be three “intensive mobile treatment teams” to reach a core of about 75 people who are in and out of jail and in danger of becoming homeless.