Suicide crisis: Mayor, NYPD discuss free mental health services to police officers

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD leadership discussed a new program Thursday that is designed to combat the department's suicide crisis.

It's called the "Finest Care" program and will connect officers in need with psychologists and psychiatrists at New York-Presbyterian Medical Center.

"If you have a problem, we all have a problem," de Blasio said. "If you have a problem, your whole family has a problem. If you have a problem, you have a right to help. If you have a problem, there is nothing wrong with you."

It offers another option to those who do not want to seek help inside the department and is free. It will also be completely anonymous, with the hospital only telling the NYPD how many officers are using the program.

All officers have to do is call and ask for help. "Pick up that phone," said the mayor. "I mean, we've lost ten good people, and I believe in my heart had they understood, at least in some cases, that help was there they might have been saved."

"We are glad that the mayor and the NYPD have finally realized that we need help from outside the department to address the police mental health crisis," PBA President Pat Lynch said. "We have said repeatedly that our members need no-cost access to high-quality professional mental health care, and they need to be able to seek treatment without derailing their careers. The new partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital appears to be a step in the right direction."

The hospital will provide confidential counseling and other mental health services free of charge, along with prescription medications.

"If the pilot program proves successful, it should be made permanent and expanded to providers throughout New York City and the surrounding counties," Lynch said. "There is still much more work to be done to address this crisis. The NYPD should continue to focus its efforts on these types of programs, which address our members' needs as both cops and human beings."

"There's a lot of pain we're feeling," said the mayor. "This year has been a shock to all of us."

In 2018, in a police force of more than 35,000, 1,200 sought mental health help and 300 needed follow up counseling.

The NYPD had previously said it would be partnering with a privately run hospital as part of its suicide prevention efforts. At least 10 officers have died by suicide this year.

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