The Big Apple’s pilot program to answer 911 alerts concerning mentally ill people, such as homeless man Jordan Neely, was unable to answer 1 in 4 calls for help last year — as officials warn others will only continue to fall through the cracks of a strained system.
B-HEARD, which was designed to allow mental health professionals to respond to certain crises instead of police, left 600 distress calls unanswered in fiscal 2022, healthy agency officials said.
Neely, who was choked to death by a straphanger on a downtown F train earlier this week, would likely have been an ideal candidate for B-HEARD given his prior run-ins with cops due to his mental illness — even though the program doesn’t yet operate in Manhattan.
The B-HEARD teams, made up of two EMS workers and a mental health professional, were able to respond to 1,700 other calls in 2022 — making up 73% of the total requests they received.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the 600 unanswered calls last year were due to lack of staffing in teams, or just the sheer number of alerts.
Despite already being ill-equipped to answer hundreds of calls for assistance, the program has still expanded rapidly across the city since its inception in Harlem in 2021.
As of March this year, the program had already spread to large swaths of Brooklyn and Queens.
And B-HEARD is set to expand its pilot footprint even further under Mayor Eric Adams’ 2024 budget — but without adding any extra staffers.
Councilman Robert Holden, who represents the city’s 30th District in Queens, slammed the plans to expand without adding staffers as “disturbing.”
Meanwhile, the program also appears to be having trouble hiring at current levels, according to job listings.
Two supervisor positions within the agency have been open for nearly a year, while the city has also been trying to add another social worker to the teams since last November.
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NYC subway choking victim Jordan Neely: What we know
When: May 1, 2023
Who: Jordan Neely, 30, a homeless man was fatally strangled aboard a northbound F train just before
2:30 p.m., according to police.
He reportedly started acting erratically on the train and harassing other passengers before being
restrained and ultimately choked by a straphanger, identified as a 24-year-old Marine from Queens.
The Marine, who was seen on video applying the chokehold, was taken into custody and later released
but the DA is mulling charges, which could include involuntary manslaughter, according to experts.
Fallout: The city medical examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide, noting he died due to “compression
of neck (chokehold).” This will be weighed during the investigation into whether charges will be brought
for Neely’s death.
Neely’s aunt told The Post that he became a “complete mess” following the brutal murder of his mother
in 2007. She noted he was schizophrenic while suffering from PTSD and depression.
“The whole system just failed him. He fell through the cracks of the system,” Carolyn Neely said.
Law enforcement sources said Neely had “numerous” arrests on his record, including for drugs,
disorderly conduct, and fare beating.
At the time of his death, Neely had a warrant out for his arrest for a November 2021 case where he was
accused of assaulting a 67-year-old woman in the East Village, the sources said.
Mayor Eric Adams has said it’s important for the DA to complete the investigation into Neely’s death and
not rush to conclusions.
In Neely’s case, the 30-year-old had about 43 calls for an “aided case” — meaning someone sick, injured or mentally ill — tied to him in his years of run-ins with authorities.
On various occasions, Neely had told cops he was schizophrenic or that he was suicidal.
In one of his final brushes with law enforcement before his death, Neely pleaded guilty to felony assault on Feb. 9 as part of a deal that ensured he could enter an Alternatives to Incarceration diversion program.
The judge had ordered him to undergo mental health treatment as part of the program and return for all future court dates in his case, according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by The Post.
Weeks later on Feb. 23, the judge issued a bench warrant for Neely after he left the mental health facility against clinical advice.
“It’s like this revolving door,” Holden told The Post.
“Unless you set up the infrastructure in these programs [they will fail].”
“Nobody seems to be in charge of like, looking at the arrests,” he added.
“If you keep arresting him, and he keeps getting let go without getting treatment, this is going to continue to happen. We’re gonna get more of these.”
Just last week, The Post learned of a community organization in Brownsville, an area with chronic homelessness, that had reached out to NYC Well — one of the city’s mental health services — regarding a young woman in mental distress in Brooklyn.
After the group connected with the woman on the street, they were on hold with the city service for 9 minutes until they were informed it would take 24 hours to get her any help.
They weren’t told of, or connected with, a B-HEARD team, which had expanded into the neighborhood two months earlier.
Four hours later and without any help from the city, the group brought the woman to a shelter with no mental health services.
“We knew for a fact the agencies in the city don’t communicate, we always hear at hearings [about it] …We never hear that they are interacting with other,” said Holden, the Queens pol.
“We need [a] comprehensive … definitive system of follow-up. I don’t think it’s happening because it’s happened before.”
“The city of New York has been miserable on addressing this [mental health crisis] and they come up with program after program,” he continued.
“If they’re not going to have a system set up where these people with mental illness get help, like Mr. Neely, [this] is going to continue to happen.”