Justice for All: Police reforms bring renewed focus on mental illness

Reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s death have brought a renewed focus on police response and mental illness.  
For decades, many have continued to raise their voices advocating for the mentally ill. The cry for changes to policing remain as the mentally ill in the tri-state area and across the nation have sometimes died during police interventions.
Hawa Bah, the mother of Mohamed Bah, continues to advocate for changes. Her son was killed in 2012 when she called an ambulance for help.
“I really don’t want other New Yorkers to get killed in front their family as they killed my son,” says Bah.  
However, mental health crises are common. According to 2017 numbers by the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five U.S adults live with a mental illness.
The mayor's office tells News12 that an initiative, the Mental Health Emergency Pilot Program, covers Harlem and East Harlem and will respond to 911 mental health calls that do not involve a weapon or show signs of violence.
"This is a brand-new approach and it's taken an extraordinary team to pull it together, and let's be clear, it's a health-centered approach," says Mayor Bill de Blasio.
While this program rolls out, lawmakers are hoping to reimagine public safety nationwide.
"Unfortunately, the criminal justice response is the default response. So, if you have currently somebody who’s having a mental health crisis they don’t need the police, they need help," says state Sen. Kevin Parker.
Reporting and text by Phil Taitt.