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'NYC Safe' Mental Health Initiative Unveiled As Part Of Plan To Combat Homelessness

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan Thursday to deal with the mentally ill homeless who are also violent. It came on the same day New Yorkers said their quality of life isn't very good.

"What we are talking about is unprecedented, a culture shift in the way we think about and treat people who suffer from serious mental illness, who are also violent," said first lady Chirlane McCray.

'NYC Safe' Mental Health Initiative Unveiled As Part Of Plan To Combat Homelessness

The mayor's director of criminal justice, Elizabeth Glazer, said the new system will cause law enforcement and mental health experts to exchange information about people who are mentally ill and potentially violent, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

"Now when city workers are concerned about somebody, they will immediately flag those folks for a kind of air traffic controller, what we're calling the Hub. Something that's never existed before," said Glazer.

De Blasio hopes the new approach will drive down violence and save lives.

But don't expect the mayor's "NYC Safe" initiative to magically make the homeless disappear from the streets. Officials told CBS2's Marcia Kramer it may only affect several hundred.

Kramer's question to de Blasio was simple: what can New Yorkers expect to see in terms of homeless on the streets?

"It will have some impact on street homeless, but as you've heard, not an overwhelming impact because it's such a small percentage of those that are street homeless to begin with," the mayor said.

The plan to deal with the mentally ill homeless who are also violent was revealed as the NYPD tries to get a handle on the problem of synthetic marijuana, like K2. It is said to be popular with many homeless, like the ones Kramer saw seemingly passed out on benches on Lexington Avenue and 125th Street on Thursday.

Police tried to clear them out.

"They're here all day every day smoking K2, looking like zombies," one person told CBS2's Andrea Grymes.

"We're very focused on the K2 problem," de Blasio told Kramer.

The mayor said he's also focused on the homeless, and he should be because it comes at a time when New Yorkers are upset by the things they see on the street -- people begging or like when a homeless man was spotted taking a bath in the fountain at Columbus Circle.

The homeless problem is also affecting New Yorkers' views of their quality of life.

Only 33 percent of New Yorkers say their quality of life is very good or good -- the lowest ever measured by the Quinnipiac poll. Meanwhile, 65 percent say their quality of life is fair, poor or very poor.

The mayor's plan focuses on what officials say is a narrow segment of the homeless -- the mentally ill who are violent.

The $22 million effort will:

* Field three mobile treatment units to service 75 people

* Establish other treatment teams to handle 272 who have displayed violent behavior

* Send more cops to police areas around shelters

* Increase the number of peace officers inside shelters

"I think it's a plan that will have a big impact over time," the mayor said.

The plan is part of a larger program to deal with the mentally ill. It will begin sometime in the fall, Kramer reported.

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