The New York Police Department and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital announced a new collaboration to connect uniformed members of service with free, confidential counseling and other mental health services. FINEST CARE enables officers to call a confidential NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital referral line to get connected to the hospital’s affiliated psychologists and psychiatrists.
“This is an important initiative today because it’s going to save lives,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference at the NewYork-Presbyterian David H. Koch Center, where FINEST CARE was announced October 24. “What NewYork-Presbyterian is doing is creating a separate, independent place that our officers can turn to. And not just any place — a world-renowned institution that our officers can turn to whenever they need.”
FINEST CARE provides all uniformed members of service with access to clinicians who can provide counseling through difficult life events. At no cost to the officer, the program, which begins October 28, offers a wide range of comprehensive and confidential behavioral health services specifically developed for NYPD uniformed officers and tailored to meet an individual’s needs. Examples of available resources include a one-time appointment to discuss an acute issue, regular outpatient therapy sessions with licensed psychiatrists and psychologists, and prescribed medication when clinically appropriate.
“This is the finest police force in the world,” said Dr. Steven J. Corwin, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian. “We have a profound obligation to this city, and a profound obligation to those people who protect and serve us. We feel that awesome sense of responsibility in this program. We feel very confident that we can help, very confident that we will save lives.”
Mayor de Blasio said the officers would get the very best care available.
“This is one of the finest healthcare institutions not only in the city but in the world,” de Blasio said. “So when we call it FINEST CARE, of course we refer to New York’s finest, but we’re also sending the message that this is the highest-quality care anywhere.”
This year, 10 active members of the NYPD have committed suicide. The suicide rate for uniformed NYPD personnel is more than double the rate for the general population of New York City, according to NYPD records.
“We know that taking care of this city is one of the hardest jobs in the world,” said Dr. Philip Wilner, senior vice president and chief operating officer of NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Behavioral Health Center, and a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine. He described the “constant hypervigilance” and “enormous stress” that police officers experience “on the front line taking care of millions of our citizens and the people who come here every day.”
“The most important point,” he added, “is that help is just one phone call away. We will help you find the answers and create the solutions to the challenges that you may be facing. We’ve tailored this program to the unique stresses police officers face with special techniques and strategies designed to be most helpful.”
To access resources, uniformed members of service can call NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s dedicated referral line and speak to a coordinator who will identify a convenient provider for a timely appointment. Coordinators will be trained to speak with NYPD officers and to identify whether a caller immediately needs help or is looking to speak to a mental health professional about an issue before it turns into a crisis. FINEST CARE is available for all kinds of emotional challenges, and all uniformed members of service who are experiencing challenges are encouraged to call.
“If you’re unsure whether to call, whether your problem is too big or possibly too small to call, call anyway,” Dr. Wilner said. “Speak with one of our counselors, and we will help you decide how to proceed. It will take five minutes but it may be the most important five minutes of your life.”
A team of clinicians from NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Behavioral Health Center is available for this effort. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is collaborating with its affiliated medical schools, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“Please call us so that we can personalize treatment for you, get you the access to the care you need,” urged Dr. Judith Cukor, program director of FINEST CARE, a psychologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and an associate professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “We’re going to step up and meet whatever need there is.”