Mayor de Blasio to Triple Intensive-Care Mental Health Units on Rikers Island

April 26, 2016

Administration to open eight new PACE units, expand pre-arraignment mental health screening, increase Hepatitis-C treatment

NEW YORK––Mayor de Blasio today announced the City will triple the number of intensive-care mental health units on Rikers Island as part of the City’s overhaul of mental health care for inmates in City jails.

“Today’s expansion of intensive-care mental health units for inmates in our city’s jails is an important step toward making sure every New Yorker receives the mental health care they need. This administration is taking aggressive steps in our city’s jails to increase therapeutic interventions, strengthen healthcare and improve the safety of officers and inmates alike – and today’s expansion of PACE units will help us improve the health and safety of those in Department of Correction custody,” said Mayor de Blasio.

“Decades of divestment and under-investment have left too many vulnerable New Yorkers with few options for treatment. People struggling with mental health challenges often go years without appropriate care and too many of our citizens end up in Rikers,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “While we work to build an effective mental health system, we must also care for those with mental health challenges who are incarcerated so that they may re-enter society and be healthy and productive. Today’s announcement will improve care, address safety issues and save lives.”

This expansion includes a new $8.7 million in expense funding in FY17, ramping up to $24.2 million in FY20, to add and staff eight new PACE (Program to Accelerate Clinical Effectiveness) units. The administration additionally announced $2.7 million annual investment starting in FY17 to expand pre-arraignment screening in Manhattan, and $2.5 million in FY17, ramping up to $5 million in FY18, to expand Hepatitis-C treatment in the city’s jails.

In addition, the budget will include $1.9 million in capital funding to improve and speed up patient care through telehealth and the addition of 12 new mini-clinics.

PACE units, which opened under the de Blasio administration, are intensive-care housing units for inmates with serious mental health issues which have resulted in increased adherence to medical regimens and reduced uses of force. PACE units offer intensive treatment including dedicated and stable mental health and security staff, nurses and mental health treatment aids. The number of inmates adhering to their medical regimen has increased 40 percent in existing PACE units, and uses of force in PACE and CAPS (a housing unit for violent inmates with mental health issues) was 52 percent lower than in other mental health housing units in 2015.

Today’s investments include:

  • Expansion of PACE Units: $2.1 million in FY17, ramping up to $10.2 million by FY20, for eight new PACE units. The current four PACE units on Rikers provide a higher level of clinical care for mentally ill inmates. These new eight units will serve approximately 240 inmates.
  • Staffing for PACE units, mini-clinics and Telehealth: $6.6 million in FY17, ramping up to $14 million by FY20, for Department of Correction staffing for PACE Units, which will total 163 staffers by FY20. Additionally, this funding will cover staffing for mini-clinics and TeleHealth.
  • Enhanced Prearrangement Screening in Manhattan: $2.7 million in FY17 and each year thereafter for a central booking site in Manhattan to provide more expansive pre-arraignment health screenings performed by a nurse practitioner. This screening will help identify those with serious mental health issues earlier. This screening, which previously covered one shift, will now expand to all shifts in Manhattan. It is funded as part of the Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Task Force.
  • Hepatitis C Treatment Expansion: $2.5 million in FY17, ramping up to $5 million by FY18, to expand the provision of a 90-day drug regimen of Sofosbuvir, which cures Hepatitis C.

Today’s capital budget investments include:

  • Telehealth systems for swifter patient care: $700,000 in capital funding for telehealth to allow for faster patient assessment and care.
  • 12 mini-clinics: $1.2 million in capital funding to create 12 additional mini-clinics near jail housing areas and increase swift access to needed services.

"NYC Health + Hospitals is committed to the health and well-being of all New Yorkers, and we are proud to be able to provide enhanced care in the City's jails for some of our most vulnerable patients," said Dr. Ram Raju, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals. "This innovative model for patients with mental illness will bring a higher level of treatment and coordination between health and security staff. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Department of Correction to address the needs of all patients in our care."

“Safety is my number one priority and NYC Health + Hospitals has been an essential partner as we work to better support and manage those in our custody and keep them safe from harm,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte. “One of the best examples of this collaboration has been our joint expansion of specialized units like PACE that focus on managing and treating inmates with chronic mental illness. These new PACE units will dramatically increase our delivery of therapeutic interventions for those at risk of further decompensation, self-harm and hospitalization, thereby reducing negative health outcomes.”

"Expanding mental health care to those in need on Rikers Island should ultimately assist in bringing down the level of violence while in custody and ideally be of further help to the inmate after being released. It's critical that we act now to protect every individual detained, and I thank the administration for their commitment to increasing safety in our jails," said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Services.

"I applaud the Mayor for making this substantial investment in the mental health of those detained in City jails. Detainees represent some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers and we know our jails are better, safer places when the overt and underlying health issues of detainees are addressed. I am confident that by increasing mental health intake screenings and expanding the already successful PACE units, we will be improving the overall safety for detainees and corrections officers alike. I thank Mayor de Blasio, Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte, and NYC Health + Hospitals CEO Dr. Ram Raju for their partnership on this effort and for recognizing the role mental health care plays in reducing the violence in our jails and in ending the cycle of recidivism,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety.

"This robust mental health care plan will greatly benefit both the incarcerated and correction officers on Rikers Island," said Council Member Daniel Dromm. "These new units and staff members will further reduce outbreaks of physical force and violence. I support this expansion that will improve the lives of our city's inmates and will work with the administration to develop this important initiative.”

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