ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County is more than doubling its commitment to the Forensics Intervention Team (FIT) with 18 new full-time employees, to further bolster the county’s response to mental health situations.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello was joined by Deputy County Executive for Health and Human Services Corinda Crossdale, Monroe County Undersheriff Korey Brown, Fairport Police Chief Sam Farina, Office of Mental Health Director Dr. April Aycock, and other local officials made the announcement Tuesday.
“If someone calls 911 for a fire, they get a firefighter,” Bello said. “If there’s a medical emergency, they get an EMT, and for almost anything else, they get a law enforcement officer. That has to change.”
Tuesday’s announcement follows the result of a task-force investigation launched in February, designed by the county to find out how it could improve FIT’s role and response in the community.
“For too long we have divested meaningful investment from social service and mental health programs,” Bello said. “Instead of asking the community what systems can do for them, the community is often left feeling what systems are doing to them.”
After the details of Daniel Prude’s death became public in early September, Bello announced FIT’s transition to a 24/7 service model.
“FIT is now operating 24/7 with an increased emphasis placed on both mental health and emergency response systems,” Bello said. There has been an increased demand and so in response we’re taking the necessary steps to respond by committing more resources, so those in need receive timely services and support.”
Questions were raised recently on why FIT didn’t respond to an incident at the Open Door Mission in Rochester where a man was ultimately shot and killed by a police officer, but Bello says the additional investment in the program will give them better response abilities.
“We are more than doubling our commitment to FIT by adding 18 new positions to this important behavioral systems team,” Bello said. “The current FIT roster includes eight full-time, and four part-time employees. When I started as county executive the FIT team was comprised of five members with limited hours. We’re going to be increasing up to 28 members with today’s announcement.”
Bello said the increase from five FIT members to 28 is a reflection of need and recent events.
“The recent events have highlighted the role of FIT when responding to emergency calls alongside law enforcement, which is a critical component,” Bello said. “I have witnessed firsthand the amazing work by our FIT team. The vast majority of what they do, the public never sees. That’s a testament to the hard work, dedication, and professionalism of our staff. This is a short-term fix in the context of a much larger commitment that we’re making in government. I hear the voices of those who are crying our for help and I intend to stop the cycle and use our resources to help.”
“We’re very excited about this in the sheriff’s office,” Undersheriff Brown said. “We really want that deputy to have the assistance they need, and we want the community to have the assistance they need.”
“It’s multiple times, daily and that’s the reason for our emphatic plea to the county executive for more personnel,” Chief Ferino said.
The county executive said it could take up to three months to get to the 28 member staffing threshold the county is aiming for.
“We anticipate it would take around 90 days to onboard the staff,” Bello said. “These are clinicians that are going to be added to the staff.”
Bello said FIT is a law enforcement-requested assistance, which is requested at the discretion of law enforcement when the team is needed.
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.