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For immediate release: January 21, 2022
Phone: 5184748418


As Announced During Governor's State of The StateState will Deploy New "Safe Options Support" (SOS) Outreach Teams — RFP Issued Today     
Beginning Next Week, Existing State-Funded Behavioral Health Professionals will Deploy into the Subway System to Help Address Immediate Needs  
OMH Will Ramp Up to Investing $21 Million Annually for 20 SOS Teams Conducting Outreach and Service Delivery on New York City Streets and in the Subway        
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced expanded initiatives to address homelessness and help provide intensive outreach, engagement, and care coordination services on the streets and in the subway in New York City, and announced the launch of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for nonprofit organizations to operate specialized "Safe Options Support" teams consisting of direct outreach workers as well as clinicians to help more New Yorkers come off of streets and into shelters and/or housing. These initiatives were announced earlier this month on Jan. 5 as part of the Governor's State of the State proposals to combat homelessness and expand housing access for New Yorkers in need, and on Jan. 6, Governor Hochul highlighted these initiatives and City coordination with New York City Mayor Eric Adams.     
"Working with our partners in New York City, we're taking action to help make our streets and subways safer," Governor Hochul said. "Too many New Yorkers are sleeping on our streets and subways - they need resources and support to get back on their feet. By deploying outreach professionals to targeted areas, we will help improve safety and ensure New Yorkers experiencing homelessness have the support they need."  
To provide immediate and expanded assistance to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness in the subway system, the State will be deploying approximately 20 public employees, contracted nonprofit provider staff, and volunteers into the subway system within one week. This group will include behavioral health professionals that will connect New Yorkers experiencing homelessness to critical services as well as shelter. The State will closely coordinate with the City of New York and the MTA to deploy these professionals to areas with most immediate and acute needs and will continuously evaluate whether deployments need to be adjusted depending on needs.    
In addition, today the State's Office of Mental Health issued a RFP that invites eligible nonprofit organizations to submit applications to create and implement Governor Hochul's SOS teams, which will not only conduct direct one-on-one outreach with New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, but will also include on-street and in-subway clinicians, nurses, social workers, and behavioral health specialists, so that the street-to-referral logjam is broken, and that a comprehensive suite of much-needed critical services can be provided immediately to New Yorkers in need. In total, OMH seeks to deploy up to 20 SOS teams this year, including 4 teams in New York City by the early Spring, an additional 8 teams in New York City by the summer, and the final 8 teams in high-needs regions throughout the state by the end of the year, investing $11 million in Fiscal Year 2023 and ramping up to $21 million annually for future years.    
The SOS teams will greatly expand coverage and capacity and will work closely with the New York City Department of Homeless Services to ensure there is complementary and broader coverage of the availability of services. By including clinicians on the teams, referral for services will be streamlined. In addition, referrals will be coordinated through the SOS Referral Hub, in collaboration with several City and State agencies, to ensure rapid connection and to prevent any duplication of services. Individual referrals can be made by numerous entities, including but not limited to, outreach teams, hospitals, family and caregivers, community providers, police and the MTA.     
In order to enhance collaboration and coordination between the State and City governments, Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams announced that the SOS teams will be complemented by a citywide training collaborative which will include the MTA, NYPD, the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the NYS Office of Mental Health, the NYS Office of Addiction Supports and Services, the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and other key stakeholders, which will ensure a collaborative and holistic response to the homelessness crisis.     
OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, "The SOS teams will use evidence-based practices that are proven to help the individuals who are most at-risk and often the most difficult to reach. By working closely with New York City agencies and officials, we will be able to better identify the people who most need our assistance and get them off the street and into safe housing."     
MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, "Right now addressing needs of people experiencing homelessness and mental health issues in our system is especially urgent for them—and equally important for our riders. We welcome the governor's quick action to help attack this chronic issue facing our city."  
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said, "Homelessness is a nationwide challenge requiring an all hands-on deck response that can only be achieved through collaboration across all levels of government. We applaud Governor Hochul for this new initiative focused on reaching and supporting fellow New Yorkers experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and we look forward to building on our partnership to identify new and compassionate ways in which we can help some of our city's most vulnerable residents get back on their feet."      
Governor Hochul has made the development of a comprehensive behavioral health crisis system in New York State one of her administration's top priorities, with a specific focus on addressing the complex needs of New York's street homeless population.     
In addition to Safe Options Support Teams, this comprehensive system includes new crisis stabilization centers, crisis residential programs, additional mobile crisis teams, a 988 Crisis Hotline, enhanced coordination between law enforcement and comprehensive psychiatric emergency programs, and other intensive services for adults, children, and families experiencing a behavioral health crisis. In addition, the Governor has proposed an extension and expansion of Kendra's Law, which will strengthen the State and City's response to individuals with serious mental illness who have histories of violent behavior to themselves or others.