Major changes coming to Monroe County’s mental health services after task force report

Local News

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Major changes are needed to Monroe County’s services for mental health and substance abuse, according to the Monroe County Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force 90-day report. 

The report says the mental health services within the county have been underutilized and uncoordinated.

“The connection between community and the people that are looking for help and the help is missing,” said Adam Bello, Monroe County executive.

Leaders in law enforcement, the mental health field, and Monroe County are on the task force, which is focusing on strengthening these community services and changing the way law enforcement responds to mental health calls. 

The Monroe County Mental Health and Substance Disorder Task Force was started in September of 2020 to recommend improvements for the use of the county’s nearly $40 million mental health funds. 

The 90-day report claims that law enforcement is too often miss-appropriately used for mental health calls or services and that has led to gaps in addressing community’s needs. 

“Getting them to where they need to go, it’s just a tremendous benefit because we don’t want to be anywhere we don’t have to be. We understand that lots of times we weren’t needed but were the only ones that were available,” said Korey Brown, Monroe County Undersheriff.

The report includes 3 short term goals and a long term goal;

  1. Increase connection to behavior health services that meet community need.
  2. Respond to behavioral health crisis calls with the most helpful option, activating law enforcement only when needed. 
  3. Strengthen post-crisis supports to address the full range of individual needs, stabilizing and linking to prevent future crises.
  4. Ensure the provision of culturally responsive and effective behavioral health services and support.

“We have different levels of care across the continuum and if we are able to tie people into the system and we are able to work together, we are able to maximize that continuum of care so that the undersheriff never gets the call,” said Melanie Funchess, Mental Health Professional, task force member.

Immediate recommendations include; Linking behavioral crisis calls to 2-1-1/or lifeline services, expanding the forensic intervention team to 24/7 response, implementing non- law enforcement response options like mobile behavioral health crisis services through local hospital systems and strengthening post crisis support systems including those in the office of mental health.

“So we just want to make sure the person is getting the help they need by the right person that should be there and we’re very excited that there will be more people to help in these times of calls,” said Korey Brown, Monroe County Undersheriff.

Long term, the task force will also look to educate on culturally responsive and effective behavioral health services and support for communities of color.  To assist with the goal, Dr. April Aycock was appointed to the task force Thursday, she is a mental health and substance abuse expert with a background in diversity and will be spearheading the future work.

“The plan will be that our services and connection will be tailored much more cultural responsive to the black and brown people of Rochester,” said Dr. April Aycock.

Over the next several months, the task force will be working with law enforcement and community partners to begin education and implementation of the report’s recommendations.

Read the task force’s 90-day report:

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