Albany County officials tout report showing success of diverting crisis calls to mental health professionals
Robert Gavin reports in the Times Union that Albany County is attempting to respond to more emergency calls with EMS and behavioral health professionals rather than police. On Sept. 9 Albany County officials called the pilot program a big success. "While many communities across the country have been rethinking crisis response, re-imaging how to handle crises, Albany County did it," the county's mental health commissioner, Stephen Giordano, said. The program is called ACCORD, for Albany County Crisis Officials Responding and Diverting, and it began in June, 2021 to reduce adverse encounters between police and civilians with mental health issues. Police do not received the same training as mental health professionals. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple is on board with the program. "If we get called to some place right now and we have someone who is mentally ill, we take them to the hospital," Apple said. "That's going to tie up police officers and probably one paramedic because they have to have us and we have to have them. So now we're tied up at the (emergency room) for hours because of their staffing shortage. So this (ACCORD) team will be able to take care of that and keep police officers on the street, which is vital." UAlbany's School of Public Health and School of Social Welfare released a report about the program. From June 2021 to June 2022 there were 240 non-violent 911 calls dispatched to the ACCORD team in Albany County. In 122 of the encounters, the teams were able to resolve the crisis on the scene. Instead of police shootings, the mental health professionals recommended individuals take a shower, get outside for a walk, and talked out the problems. "For so many years, we've been trying to call attention to the mental health needs of our community," Giordano told reporters, "and I guess we're getting noticed now - unfortunately and fortunately." Read the full story in the Times Union.