ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) – A program that pairs police officers with mental health experts say they’ve seen an increase of calls during the pandemic.
“The longer that covid goes on, I think the more people continue to struggle,” said KimberlyButler, the Chief of clinical and forensic services for the Monroe County Office of Mental Health.
There has been an uptick in the number of calls the Monroe County Forensic Intervention Team or ‘FIT’ have responded to since the pandemic. The latest data for the Rochester police department shows the team made 339 contacts in March. This was at the start of covid and it increased after each month. In June it shows the highest with 760 contacts and 740 in July.
“There’s a lot of unknown. All the contradictory information about what to do, what not to do, on top of somebody’s possibly fragile mental health’s state its just exacerbating the problem,” said Sergeant Steve Boily, with the Rochester Police Department’s Crime Intervention Program.
“The pandemic has been so difficult for everybody. Even people that don’t have a previously diagnosed mental illness. Isolation is hard. We need each other,” said Butler.
The ‘FIT’ program allows police to bring mental health professionals with them into the field. While out on calls, police can consult the experts for help when a situation calls for it. A critical partnership to possibly save life.
“I think that the benefit is, we can do referrals with that individual on site. So possibly they don’t have to go to an emergency department. We can also follow up with them and possibly they’re not interested in what we’re talking about at that moment. but we can get them interested in something else. Maybe they need food, maybe they need housing, maybe they need benefits,” said Butler.
The county’s ‘FIT’ team includes 6 mental health professionals and hope to add more in the near future.