LittleAfrica News’ founder and publisher Mona Davids interviewed New York City’s Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. Williams-Isom is the last-born child of Trinidadian immigrants. Her parents migrated to the U.S. in the 1960s. Williams-Isom is a native New Yorker, born and raised in the city, specifically in the borough of Queens. As the city’s Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, one of William-Isom’s duties is ensuring New Yorkers are healthy and well provided for in that regard. “It’s such an important time as we have worked our way through COVID, through monkeypox, and through the asylum seeker crisis that we are leading this moment in the most compassionate and smart way. Because Mayor Adams’ vision is that all people make it through this recovery, especially those communities that seem to have been left behind before,” she said in the interview, referring to the various crises the city has had to deal with.
Williams-Isom further expounded on Mayor Eric Adams’ new mental health policy. Williams-Isom was keen to provide clarity and clear any confusion that could have been possibly caused by various media reports and statements from opponents of the policy. As previously reported by LittleAfrica News, the Adams Administration will be implementing a mental health policy that allows the removal of severely mentally ill people from public areas and placing them in medical facilities. Williams-Isom claimed that police officers would not be the people moving people to medical facilities, but this would be done by medical outreach workers and clinicians. “Police are not making these decisions; these decisions are being made by outreach workers and clinicians. We want to clarify a law that has already been in place. Now, we are looking at people who have severe mental illness, who are also chronically homeless and, because of their serious mental illness, might not be able to meet their basic needs,” she said. Severely mentally ill people would be taken to hospitals or medical facilities where they would be observed, diagnosed, and given the necessary care they need. “If we don’t do that, we are leaving people without dignity and we are leaving people to suffer and Mayor Adams is not willing to do that,” she said.
Williams-Isom said that some NYPD, FDNY, and EMS officers received training on the day the mental health policy was announced. She added that staff members of the other, various city departments would also undergo necessary training in due course. Community-based organizations have also played a role in the implementation of the mental health policy. This training is meant to impart knowledge on how to react to a situation involving a mentally ill person. Community-based organizations have also played a part in the education of people, according to Williams-Isom. She said that if members of the community came across a person suffering from a severe mental health issue, they should call 911 or 311. A Department of Health Outreach worker would then be dispatched to deal with the situation, according to William-Isom. She also spoke about a program called Be Heard that will see an EMS worker and a social worker respond to a situation involving a person experiencing a mental illness crisis. “I think this idea of all of us being our brothers and sisters’ keepers is very important so that we all can make sure that we are getting support to the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” she said.
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