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County, city put up funds to expand mental health intervention program

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Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.
Monroe County will invest an additional $360,000 into an existing program that pairs mental health clinicians with police officers responding to calls in which a person is likely experiencing a crisis.

County Executive Adam Bello announced the funding initiative on Friday, a little more than a week after news of the death of Daniel Prude laid bare the deficiencies of police officers when summoned to aid a person in the throes of mental distress.

The additional funding for the county’s Forensic Intervention Team — or FIT — will help expand the program, which operates between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., to a 24 hour a day, seven days a week endeavor. The money roughly matches the $300,000 Mayor Lovely Warren promised towards the expansion of the FIT team or a Rochester Police Department program that deploys social workers alongside police officers. The county originally allocated $600,000 for FIT in 2020, so the new contributions will double its budget.

“If someone calls 911 for a fire, you get a firefighter. If there’s a medical emergency, you’re having a heart attack, you get an EMT,” Bello said. “And for anything else you get a law enforcement officer. Daniel Prude’s death tragically showed that this is a model that doesn’t work and it must be changed because a one-size fits all solution can’t and won’t work for every emergency and every situation that we encounter.”

The FIT team serves all Monroe County law enforcement agencies. It consists of five mental health workers who carry police radios and whom officers can call in when they deem necessary. Those workers also follow up with people who’ve had contact with law enforcement officers and help connect them with outpatient services.

On Friday, Bello and other county officials also announced two other initiatives:



  • The formation of the Monroe County Improving Addiction Coordinating Team — or IMPACT — which will be headed by an addictions director reporting to Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza. It’ll include six outreach coordinators who will help people with addictions find hospital beds, housing, transportation, the anti-overdose drug Narcan, and other support services as they work toward recovery.
  • The formation of a task force to examine how the county could better use the $40 million it spends each year on mental health programs. The task force will work closely with the city-county Commission on Racial and Structural Equity.

Bello noted that these are mostly short-term efforts that the county can make right now, but that it, law enforcement, service providers, insurers, hospitals, Monroe County residents, and other parties have to make long-term, systemic change.

RASE co-chair Muhammad Shafiq. - PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • RASE co-chair Muhammad Shafiq.
Muhammed Shafiq, executive director of the Hickey Center of Interfaith Studies and Dialogue at Nazareth College and a co-chair of the RASE commission, compared Monroe County and Rochester to a single body that is suffering from wounds.

“This commission, you have to be a little bit compassionate with us,” Shafiq said. “To heal the whole body it takes a little bit of time.”

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.

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