New program helps police departments respond to mental health situations

Local News

Rochester Regional Health is teaming up with their local law enforcement to better handle the mental health crisis. They are the first mobile crisis team to do this in a rural area.

The Ontario County Sheriff’s Office says in the last three months they averaged 200 mental health-related calls.

Chief Deputy John Storer says, “I can tell you on certain days, we’ll have 4 and 5 suicidal suspects going at one time. That’s a huge drain on the resources of a sheriff’s office or any police department.”

He adds, “For someone in a mental health crisis to see several police cars pull up in front of their house with lights just very upsetting and of course who wants to be put in the back of a police car and taken to a hospital?”

But Chief Deputy John Storer says eight out of ten times,that’s exactly what they do. This past March, the sheriff’s office teamed up with the comprehensive psychiatric emergency program at Clifton Springs Hospital.

“Now if people call 911 and it’s a mental hygiene call then they can also call us,” says Benthany Felicita, Finger Lakes CPEP manager. “We can go to them versus them having to come to an emergency department to get the same psychiatric evaluation.”

Felicita says they will arrive on scene and take over from there, freeing up the officers and expediting the response.

“The deputies like it because It brings a mental health professional on scene and their not left making that decision,” says Sergeant Mark Taylor. “They can turn it over to the folks that actually know what their talking about.”

Since the program started, CPEP received nearly 100 calls to respond along law enforcement, diverting 70 ED visits. “People find it’s a lot easier for us to go to them right there in their homes and do that assessment and provide them with that immediate therapy and then a plan to have ongoing treatment afterwards.”

Right now this collaboration is only with Ontario County but within a year Yates and Seneca counties will have their mental health professionals heading to the scene, and their hoping many others counties will follow.

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