County launches first behavioral health response team

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County Executive Ed Day today announced the launch of Rockland’s County’s Behavioral Health Response Team (BHRT).

Officially entering service this week, the Behavioral Health Response Team is a highly-trained crisis management unit that assists local residents, first responders and behavioral health agencies in providing on-scene evaluation, treatment and crisis intervention in the community.  The BHRT specializes in providing these services to individuals who are experiencing a mental health emergency and who need, but may be unable, to obtain immediate mental health intervention.

“Improving mental health and substance abuse services is a top priority of my administration,” said County Executive Day.  “The Behavioral Health Response Team offers immediate help to adults, teens and children, wherever and whenever crisis intervention needed, while assuring their safety and the safety of those around them.”

Requests and referrals for crisis care can come from anyone: individuals, families, police departments, community agencies, community residences, adult homes, health and human service providers, the Rockland County Department of Social Services, the Rockland County Department of Health and other local mental health providers.  These calls are received on the BHRT’s own crisis line: (845) 517-0400, or by dialing 911.

In many situations, the BHRT is able to assume responsibility for the case, enabling local first responders to quickly clear the scene to resume their other public safety duties.

Mobile crisis management involves offering support and treatment necessary to stabilize the individual and ultimately link the consumer to the appropriate follow up care in the community.  The BHRT works collaboratively with both the emergency department and the Behavioral Health Center at Nyack Hospital, outpatient behavioral health providers in the Rockland community and local police and emergency medical services in Rockland County.

Rockland Paramedic Services will provide a trained behavioral health clinician and another staff member trained as an emergency medical technician. The county’s Department of Mental Health selected RPS largely due to its enhanced infrastructure, which ensures that staff will respond to emergency requests in a timely basis.  Rockland Paramedic has longstanding relationships with local police departments and hospitals, as well as extensive experience over the years in responding to calls by law enforcement to assist individuals in emotional distress.

The existing linkage of Rockland Paramedic Services to the county’s 911 emergency response system allows the BHRT to respond quickly to any Rockland location.  Rockland Paramedic also provides the ability to communicate in real time with emergency room staff at Nyack Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospital, as well as having a contractual relationship with psychiatrists and physicians at Nyack Hospital on a 24/7 basis.

When an outreach call requiring a physician is required, a BHRT member will contact the Nyack Hospital Emergency Department for follow up consultation.  This unique relationship will give BHRT members the advantage of having a psychiatrist and/or a physician available anytime.

Over $950,000 in funding for the program was provided by the New York State Office of Mental Health.

Said County Executive Day, “With today’s announcement, we begin a focused, long-term effort to ensure that individuals and families who experience a mental health crisis get the help they need, anywhere in the county. In turn, we can begin to reduce the tremendous burden that these issues place on our hospital emergency departments and law enforcement.  The BHRT will go a long way toward saving scarce taxpayer dollars.”

“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the New York State Office of Mental Health is pleased to provide more than $950,000 for the creation of Rockland County’s first Behavioral Health Response Team. With community-based services being developed throughout the State, New York’s healthcare system is becoming more robust, accessible, and wide-ranging than ever before. This mobile program will enable Rockland County to deliver integrated behavioral health and medical services to individuals and families in crisis, improving population health throughout the County,” said Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie T. Sullivan, M.D.

Rockland County Commissioner of Mental Health Michael Leitzes said, “The Behavioral Health Response Team was a major recommendation in the County’s Executive Task Force, and now the county has the resources to help our citizens that require emergency behavioral health services on a 24/7 basis. It is a unique program that will not only evaluate individuals in the community for their behavioral health needs, but will also have trained staff to assess other medical needs as well. This combination of coordinating behavioral and physical health is consistent with the changes in delivering of health care in the years ahead. I would like to thank the New York State Office of Mental health and for their support and funding of this program.”

Rockland Paramedic Services, Inc. Executive Director Ray Florida said, “Over the last 25 years RPS has touched the lives of tens of thousands of people in the Rockland community for medical emergencies. We will now be able to assist people for behavioral health issues. The Behavioral Health Response Team expands our capability to service the community’s mental, as well as physical, health care needs. This is a very exciting time for Rockland County and for our organization. We appreciate the confidence the county has in our organization and will work tirelessly to address the behavioral health needs of the community.”

Rockland County Legislator John Murphy, a longtime advocate for the disabled, called the launch of the BHRT the county’s most important accomplishment during his 40-year career in public service.

BHRT Service

The mobile capacity, in addition to the scheduled availability, provides critical emergency back-up services to those currently being treated by other programs, ensuring that distressed individuals have access to emergency mental health services. Phone calls will be triaged by trained personnel to determine the most appropriate clinical response.  When mobile outreach visits are required, the BHRT will respond and provide on-site assessment, triage, support and intervention, follow-up and referral services and if necessary arrange transport to Nyack Hospital for an emergency psychiatric evaluation.  The BHRT, as part of Rockland Paramedic Services, will work closely with local police departments to ensure the safety of both consumers and team members.


Each BHRT unit consists of two members available to immediately respond to requests for outreach 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The team includes a trained behavioral health clinician and another trained EMS technician or psychiatric technician with extensive EMS training.


If it is determined that the person must be referred to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation, arrangements will be made for ambulance transportation, or transportation with family, caregiver or other authorized person.  Police will be utilized only when safety is of concern.  If transportation is needed for referrals to outpatient mental health services, the BHRT will provide information and education about county transportation resources and, if needed, attempt to assist the individual with arranging transportation.

Communication with Mental Health Providers

For continuity of care, the Behavioral Health Response Team will make efforts to obtain collateral consent from appropriate mental health providers so the team can follow-up with the individual’s clinical providers to inform them of each BHRT contact.  Mental health providers are to call the BHRT to make referrals for their consumers when visits are deemed necessary, but are also encouraged to alert the team of impending situations so that preventative work can be initiated and unnecessary psychiatric hospital admission can be avoided.

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