Prude Death Investigation

Addressing mental health: Monroe County FIT program makes 24/7 resources available

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello was joined by various community leaders Friday to announce an increase in investments for the Forensic Intervention Team (FIT) and Monroe County’s substance abuse response in the aftermath of Daniel Prude’s death.

“If you have a fire and you call 911, you get a firefighter, if there’s a medical emergency, you have a heart attack, you get an EMT — anything else you get a law enforcement officer,” Bello said. “Daniel Prude’s death shows this doesn’t work.

MORE | Adam Bello: The county spends $40 million on mental health, ‘clearly it’s not working’

Bello announced the county would match the city’s investment in the FIT program to the tune of $360,000. The extra resources will help the FIT program become fully operation 24/7.

“We are fortunate to have our dedicated FIT team and recognize the value in responding to crisis situations, so further investment will help us expand their hours of service so they can respond any hour day or night,” Bello said. “We simply cannot be doing the same thing with the same people over and over again. I hear the voices of those who are crying out for help.

FIT is a program that partners clinicians with Monroe County’s law enforcement agencies to assist individuals with mental health needs and who have frequent contact with law enforcement.

“As an office last year we served over 42,000 unique individuals. Today happens to be the three-year anniversary of the FIT program,” said Killy Wilmot, Monroe County Office of Mental Health. “In those three years, they have provided 24,000 contacts to our community. This year they are at 11,000 contacts already with 2,000 in August alone.”

Wilmot said the FIT team assists in situations similar to Daniel Prude’s.

“They [FIT members] are dispatched with police officers and the intention is to help deescalate a crisis situation, provide assessment, and develop a treatment plan for that person,” Wilmot said.

Recently, the community has been looking at ways to improve the response to mental health crisis calls after the death of Daniel Prude — whose brother Joe called 911 for help with a mental health issue, but was killed after his encounter with police.

The autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of Prude a homicide. The report says Prude’s cause of death includes “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report also showed that Prude also had a small amount of PCP in his system at the time of his death, which could explain his erratic behavior.

“Let’s say it again, addiction is a disease, it is not a choice, it is not unlike any other chronic condition like high blood pressure, or diabetes where people must live the rest of their lives in recovery,” said Monroe County Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza. “Our work will focus on the local emergency departments and other crisis settings. People who suffer from addiction are important — these are our fathers, mothers, children and our system has failed them for far too long. Today is another step forward righting that wrong.”

“This community, Monroe County and the city is like one body,” said Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, RASE Commission co-chair. “Anywhere that there is a pain in this body, we all suffer together. They are white, they are black, they are yellow, they are brown, they come from all races all genders, from everything, but they are all from Monroe County and the city.”

The formation of the RACE commission, a joint county-city venture, was announced in June after protests in support of George Floyd erupted across the nation. The commission was ordered to review the state of education, health care, business development and other social services, as well as submit policies to both the city and county governments to address racial inequalities.

“We are committed to systematic change,” said Dr. Shafiq. “It’s not just, you do something to change the atmosphere, we are committed. This committee, you have to be a little compassionate with us because to heal the whole body is going to take time.”

Seven Rochester police officers have been suspended with pay in connection to the Prude incident: Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Michael Magri.

A federal civil lawsuit filed from the Prude family against the City of Rochester alleges there was an internal cover-up. Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, and other command staff within the department, have since announced their retirements.

Protests have been ongoing in Rochester since the news broke Wednesday. 

This is a developing story. Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this developing story.

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