ALBANY — County officials rolled out the ACCORD, a program that would send social workers and paramedics to calls that don’t necessarily need a law enforcement presence.
“This multi-faceted program is a common sense upgrade of the way that nonviolent calls for emergency assistance are handled in Albany County,” said Albany County Legislature Chairman Andrew Joyce. “When we conceptualized this program last fall we wanted to ensure that people got the proper help they needed and that our police force was freed up to focus on upholding the law. Now more than ever, our deputies should be preventing and responding to crime.”
The program will start in the Hilltowns of Albany County and may expand to other parts of the county including the larger towns and cities.
ACCORD stands for the Albany County Crisis Officials Responding and Diverting program. It consists of two response teams with social workers from the county’s Mobile Crisis Team and paramedics from the Sheriff’s Department, who have been trained to handle situations involving mental health and nonviolent emergency cases where law enforcement is not essential.
The Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Mental Health will share resources like staff and records and coordination while deciding when dispatch of the unit is needed. ACCORD would build on the success of the county’s mobile health crisis unit through improved dispatch and the addition of paramedics in many instances.
“The Sheriff’s Office is always looking to partner in unique programs to help the citizens of Albany County,” said Sheriff Craig Apple. “The ACCORD program, although a pilot program in the Hilltowns, the service being provided is the first of its kind in the Capital Region, and can be replicated in other areas of the county.”
The program was created in December 2020 with an initial investment of $170,000 to fund two additional social worker positions in the Department of Mental Health. Another $30,000 is being invested for the partnership between the county and UAlbany.
“Across the nation communities are reimagining crisis response strategies. In Albany County we have developed a cutting-edge alternative that builds upon the Department of Mental Health’s decades of experience providing mobile crisis services and reflects emerging standards of community care,” said Dr. Stephen Giordano, Albany County Mental Health commissioner. “Partnering with the Sheriff’s Office to pair up mental health experts with medics provides a compassionate response to persons in crisis and frees up law enforcement to focus on public safety matters.”
The County is partnering with UAlbany to analyze data collected through ACCORD to create a roadmap for how to scale the program within Albany County and implement it in other municipalities.
“Collecting and analyzing data to ensure new programs are delivering for those they are designed to help is central to smart policymaking,” said UAlbany researchers Dr. Tomoko Udo and Dr. Carmen Morano.