ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Albany County Crisis Officials Responding and Diverting (ACCORD) program has received $350,000 in state funding for an expansion. The program is designed to improve outcomes for nonviolent emergency calls.

“This is good news for Albany County,” said Albany County Legislature Chairman Andrew Joyce. “It was just a year ago that Albany County made its initial investment for the ACCORD program and proactively changed how we handle nonviolent calls for emergency assistance. This funding is the type of investment we need to ensure individuals get the proper help they need and our police can focus on handling crime.”

The program will be able to expand into participating municipalities throughout the county and offset costs for staffing, equipment and training. The ACCORD program officially launched in western Albany County in June 2021.

The pilot program consists of two response teams, with social workers from the County’s Mobile Crisis Team and paramedics from the Sheriff’s Office, who have been trained to handle situations involving mental health and nonviolent emergency cases where law enforcement is not essential.

As of December, the county said the program has helped over 100 people with about 240 interactions between phone follow-up and in-person interactions. Each person was connected with services they needed, reducing the number of calls to 911 dispatch.

“The ACCORD pilot has proven the concept that not all 911 calls need a police response. By having mental health social workers and paramedics respond to certain nonviolent mental health calls has freed up law enforcement to be dispatched to more emergent calls that do require a police response. With the ACCORD expansion, this will increase public safety county wide,” said Sheriff Craig Apple.

The current existing pilot program utilizes two social workers and two paramedics or EMTs to cover two 8-hour shifts. It is anticipated that most municipalities will require three social workers or other qualified mental health professionals as well as two paramedics or EMTs. Larger municipalities may require a larger team to cover the area.

Preliminary plans for the expansion involve a commitment from interested municipalities to accept ACCORD’s mission and values, create a working relationship with County-provided resources depending on jurisdiction and provide essential resources including equipment, staffing and vehicles.