Over the years, New York has had a ‘patchwork’ of services in response to individuals in crisis. As a family member, when your loved one is in crisis, you are unsure of what the response will be. Will your loved one end up in an emergency room or possibly even arrested and incarcerated? All these possibilities have and do happen and sadly even worse outcomes occur as in the case of Daniel Prude.
In recent years, due to the emphasis around 988, CIT and crisis stabilization centers (think Urgent Care Centers for Behavioral Health), there is a great deal of effort and funding to develop a coordinated response. To provide an additional support that develops a community response at the local level, Senator Samra Brouk has introduced Daniel’s Law. The Senate has allocated ten million dollars in the budget to respond to this need.
Creating a local community response, combined with 988 and Crisis Stabilization Funding will go a long way to ending this patchwork of services that too often end with negative outcomes for the individual and their loved ones.
Listed below is an article from the Times Union about Daniel’s Law and the advocacy of Senator Brouk on this issue. MHANYS strong supports this initiative.
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‘Daniel’s Law’ would shift NY response to mental crises away from police
The Legislature has included $10 million in proposed funding for a pilot program to shift away from police responses to mental health crises.
April 10, 2023
ALBANY — Daniel Prude was suffering a mental health crisis when he died during an encounter with the police in Rochester three years ago, spurring waves of protests in the upstate city and calls for statewide changes to law enforcement’s approach in similar situations.
Legislation that bears his name is seeking to do that. “Daniel’s Law” would empower mental health responders, rather than police officers, to respond to distress calls and approach people experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis. The law aims to reshape New York’s reliance on policing during emergency calls, a shift that comes in the wake of several highly publicized deaths alleged to involve police misconduct, including Prude’s.
State Sen. Samra Brouk, a Rochester Democrat who sponsored the bill in 2021, said that the legislation dovetails with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s own stated emphasis on mental health and public safety this year, which she said should help hasten its passage.
“This is really the moment,” Brouk said, pointing to Hochul’s proposed $1 billion investment in the state’s mental health system. “I think that the executive understands that what we’re doing isn’t working.”
Around $10 million in funding for a pilot program studying a statewide rollout of Daniel’s Law is part of the Senate’s budget, though a final spending plan is still unknown with budget negotiations ongoing in Albany. The pilot program would support community organizations and incentivize local governments to create more targeted response units for mental health crises; similar programs have been popping up in cities across the country, including New York City, over the past three years.
Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State Inc., said the state has a patchwork of similar services that vary county by county instead of a coordinated statewide system.
The crux of the issue, mental health advocates say, is looping in personnel who are trained to de-escalate situations without the use of force. Often, law enforcement officials who show up in uniform can unintentionally appear to pose a threat to someone who is in the midst of either a mental health or substance abuse crisis.
“In no other medical emergency do we expect people to communicate with someone with a gun,” Brouk said.
Brouk referenced the recent police shooting of a Bronx man who was experiencing a mental health crisis and was in possession of a knife when his father called a “311” nonemergency government services line for help with his son.
In Rochester, Prude, 41, had been visiting his brother’s family when he ran out of the house with few clothes on during a freezing night in March 2020. His brother Joe called 911, worried that Daniel — who struggled with suicidal thoughts and was thought to be in the middle of a psychotic episode — would hurt himself and told police as much.
Police who responded placed a “spit hood” over Daniel’s head and forcefully restrained him. He died one week later after suffering brain damage during the encounter. A medical examiner’s report ruled the death a homicide, partly from asphyxiation.
“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe Prude said during a press conference months after the incident.
The death kicked off local and statewide cries for less policing in similar situations, with Democratic legislators and advocates calling instead for a public health-based approach.
Retired Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox, who led the department for about two years beginning in 2015, has been a vocal supporter of the bill. At the start of his career in Albany, the city had a mobile crisis team in place to do almost exactly what Daniel’s Law would mandate, he said. But the program was subject to budget cuts and underfunding, Cox said.
Cox, who now works with a criminal justice reform organization called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, said that law enforcement has increasingly been tasked with responding to calls that aren’t in officers’ purview, including mental health and substance abuse emergencies.
“The simple fact of the matter is that it shouldn’t take a 911 call to solve a mental health issue,” Cox said. “And we need to have other people that are available to respond to that crisis.”
Police presence would still be likely in cases where a person in crisis could potentially have a weapon that would present a danger to themselves or others, Cox said. The law does not call for an across-the-board transition away from policing, he added, emphasizing that police and mental health responders would work collaboratively.
For example, if someone is threatening to take their own life but has a gun, Cox said both a police presence and people trained in mental health crises would need to respond, though the mental crisis responder might take the lead to de-escalate the situation.