ALBANY – A report from the University at Albany analyzing the first year of the Albany County Crisis Officials Responding and Diverting (ACCORD) pilot program has confirmed an alternative emergency response to behavioral health crises is not only necessary in Albany County, but can effectively connect underserved communities with needed social services while reducing long-term reliance on emergency services.
Findings from the report were shared by officials from the Albany County Legislature, County Executive, Sheriff’s Office, Department of Mental Health and University at Albany on announced Friday, Sept 9.
The ACCORD program, which was designed to improve outcomes for nonviolent emergency calls. Officials also provided an update regarding the process to expand the program into all municipalities throughout the County.
Officially launched by Albany County in the Hilltowns in June 2021, the program consists of two response teams made up of social workers from the County’s Mobile Crisis Team and paramedics from the Sheriff’s Office. The law enforcement agencies have been trained to handle situations involving mental health and nonviolent emergency cases where law enforcement is not essential.
As of June 2022, 240 emergency calls were diverted to the ACCORD team resulting in 549 total encounters with 210 different individuals with the majority of calls related to general medical assistance and services/transportation for those experiencing immediate mental health emergencies. In most cases, the ACCORD team was able to de-escalate the situation, assess the individual’s needs, and offer coping strategies and referral services for care. The team also followed up with the individuals and their families to offer continued support and additional services when necessary.
“In the short time the ACCORD program has been in operation the results have shown the need for more mental health staff supporting the needs of Law Enforcement,” said Sheriff Craig Apple.
Recommendations to expand the ACCORD program call for a long-term investment that includes additional training and collaboration between police, local officials, mental health professionals and the community.
In December 2021, the County received a $350,000 investment from the NYS Legislature to help ACCORD expand into neighboring communities. Since then County officials along with the Sheriff’s Office and Mental Health have met with all municipalities in the County to discuss how they can implement ACCORD. The next step is to review their 911 dispatch calls to better understand the need for ACCORD in that particular community.
In addition, the Albany County Legislature is moving forward legislation to establish a Mind Your Health Training program, which would provide mental health first aid training to county employees who have hands-on interaction with the public. Employees who receive the training will learn to identify signs that a person is struggling with their mental health; how to interact with a person in crisis; and how to connect that person with help.
; and expanded training on trauma, substance use, and self-care.
“We found that the ACCORD team was able to effectively resolve many low-priority medical and mental health emergency cases on the scene and to link patients and their family members to appropriate care and services when needed,” said Tomoko Udo, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management, and Behavior in UAlbany’s School of Public Health. “Stationing the team in Clarksville also helped the ACCORD program fill important service gaps, particularly in a community that traditionally lacks access to behavioral health and medical services.”