KINGSTON, NY – City officials are seeking approval to spend approximately $320,000 in grants to establish a mobile mental health team in Kingston.
The city received a $321,034 grant from the state’s Office of Home and Community Renewal to set up a mobile mental health team as part of a pilot program, Ruth Ann Devitt said. Frank, director of the city’s Office of Grants Management, at a meeting of the common council’s finance and audit committee on Wednesday. She said the grant was awarded last week and was a one-time community development block grant under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act program.
The funding would be used to create a mobile mental health team as part of the Kingston Fire Department to respond to non-violent calls for help, officials said. The team would be designed to offer services instead of sending a police officer to deal with mental health calls. The police department would still be dispatched to handle any calls that may involve a threat of violence.
“The concept is to develop a special Kingston-based program for Kingston residents in which a team consisting of a social worker and a first aider will work together to respond to emergency calls when people are in crisis,” said said Devitt-Frank. “The aim is to try to help people avoid going to hospital if they don’t really need it or being arrested for their behaviour.” She said the county had a similar program which serves the whole of Ulster County, but the city version would only be dedicated to Kingston.
At Devitt-Frank’s request, the committee approved a resolution authorizing the city to spend the grant to create the program. The resolution still needs to be voted on by the full council, which meets again next month.
The council on Tuesday passed a related resolution authorizing the city to seek a certificate of need from the state Department of Health to operate its own ambulance service as part of the creation of the co -answer. The ambulance service would be used to transport patients requiring further mental health treatment to the appropriate facility.
The team must respond to calls between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
City fire chief Chris Rea said with the team being created as a pilot program, it would give Kingston time to determine the true cost and demand for services before deciding whether to renew it for a second. year. He said the team and their ambulance would be housed within the fire department and would use a firefighter as an emergency services worker to partner with the social worker.
The city’s firefighters are also certified emergency medical technicians.
Mayor Steve Noble previously told aldermen that the city has also set aside $700,000 of its federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to pay the salaries of the mental health practitioner and paramedics for the next few years.
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