Mental health experts: Prude needed help, not police

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — In the wake of Daniel Prude’s death, concern is growing on how police respond to calls involving people with mental health issues, and some organizations and mental health experts think department protocols in Rochester need to change.

Community organizations and mental health experts are calling for more training of Rochester police officers and for mental health professionals to be involved when encountering someone with mental health challenges.

MORE | Rochester City Council demands money for mental health services, Mayor Warren responds

“We know that tell us that he was in need of help,” While watching this video of Prude’s arrest, Melanie Funchess, director of community engagement Mental Health Association of Monroe county says she see a person in need of mental intervention, not a police response. “People with mental health challenges are often characterized as violent when the data does not bear that out.”

People with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service.

For members of the black community, this plus the national focus on police relations could keep them from reach out for help.

“For black men, being able to reach out for help when you are seen as a threat…when you think that you’re going to be perceived as a threat and there is evidence that you are seen as a threat why would you want to reach out to receive help,” said Funchess.

Funchess believes specialized training is needed to deal with these kinds of calls and prevent violence, many protesters and community organizations are calling for the same. 

Color of Change, a national racial justice organization, are demanding that the officers involved are charged and arrested. They also want trained medical and mental health professionals as first responders to medical calls, not armed officers. 

“It not really that the officer should receive more training it’s that someone with the proper training and in a different field where the culture is care should be responding,” Scott Roberts, Senior Director of Criminal Justice Campaigns for Color Of Change

In a letter to the Mayor, members of city council asked that city funds be allocated for the Monroe County’s Forensic Intervention Team, a partnership with the County’s Office of Mental Health to assist those struggling with mental health needs, and decrease the use of emergency and crisis response services in situations involving mental health.

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