Mental health is a concern in our communities today. As we have endured more than a year of pandemic restrictions, sickness and death of loved ones, and living in isolation since last March of last year, many are suffering from mental health crises. At times these crises manifest to the level in which an individual loses control of their life, and may even put their own life or the lives of others in danger. At the Neighborhood Center, we recognize this community crisis. Through our outpatient behavioral health clinics, care management, adult recovery services, and our mobile crisis awareness team programs, we’re working every day to make a difference in the lives of the many who are in crisis or are recovering from a crisis.
Today Sandra Soroka, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Center, Inc. is announcing a pilot partnership between the Neighborhood Center’s Mobile Crisis Awareness Team and the Utica Police Department. One MCAT Crisis Counselor/Program Coordinator and one Utica Police Department Officer will be on duty and available Monday through Friday from 10am-6pm. They will respond to law enforcement calls relating to mental health issues coming into UPD. The team will collaborate closely with Utica Police Officers, Oneida County Mental Health, agency partners and community members to provide ongoing support and mental health care in the community. In “off-shift hours”, the Utica Police Department will continue to utilize the MCAT Crisis Line (315-732-MCAT) as necessary to maintain consistent mental health support for clients in the community and to provide a crisis response.
The overall goal of this innovative program is to reduce unnecessary engagement with hospital emergency departments and law enforcement, and to provide linkage and support in obtaining mental health, substance use and social services.
Specifically, our goals are to:
■ To engage and build rapport with individuals into community services who have been resistant to treatment or help
■ Decrease the number of mental health law calls that result in an involuntary mental hygiene arrest in Utica,
■ Encourage community members to seek and engage with ongoing mental health and substance use supports in the community.
The team will also conduct field outreach to community members that often utilize MCAT, the Emergency Department, Utica Police Department services and/or are taken to a facility frequently with the use of an involuntary mental hygiene arrest.
The team will also follow-up on MHL calls to UPD during their off-shift hours to provide outreach and linkage to services as needed. They will attend community meetings and care coordination meetings in collaboration with agency partners within the Oneida County Crisis Response Team developed using concepts similar to a Crisis Intervention Team model.
This pilot project has been made possible through funding from the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties and M&T Bank/Partners Trust Bank Charitable Fund. MCAT is a funded program of the Oneida County Department of Mental Health.
Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri:
“Successfully bridging the gap between law enforcement and mental health starts with awareness, understanding, teamwork and compassion. By working together, and fostering public private partnerships, the City of Utica Police Department will continue to be a leader in community oriented policing. I commend and thank all the partners who made this initiative and worthy endeavor possible.”
Utica Police Chief Mark Williams:
“The Neighborhood Center’s Mobile Crisis Assessment Team has always been a great resource for law enforcement agencies here in Oneida County. The newly formed Crisis Intervention Response Team will take a more proactive approach by conducting field outreach with persons who have known mental health issues. The overall goal is to minimize the acute psychiatric crisis from becoming emergencies that require law enforcement involvement or involuntary hospitalization, while safely connecting the person with mental health resources.”
County Executive Anthony Picente:
“This pilot partnership will strengthen the mental health response in Utica and Oneida County is happy to support its success through our services. Not only will the Utica Police Department get the additional support and expertise of a licensed counselor, but those MCAT counselors will also have the protection and emergency response capability of law enforcement by their side. Most importantly, our residents who are experiencing mental health crises will receive a more robust and efficient connection to the support services they need.”
Dave Manzelmann, M&T Bank/Partners Trust Bank Charitable Fund:
“This planned response effort between The Neighborhood Center MCAT and the City of Utica Police Department sheds light on a situation that is very much existent right here in our community,” said David Manzelmann, advisory committee member for the M&T Bank/Partners Trust Bank Charitable Fund. “Supporting this partnership was a very easy decision because nothing like it currently exists and the outcomes will ensure that those experiencing a mental health crisis can get the care and attention that they need.”
Alicia Dicks, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties:
“Many communities are searching for an innovative model allowing for an appropriate response to complex situations, with the opportunity to handle these circumstances in a manner that always keeps the individual and their wellbeing in mind,” said Alicia Dicks, president/CEO of the Community Foundation. “When I see this project, I see two very important partners in the community—law enforcement and the expertise of our nonprofits—coming together for the best interest of those that they serve.”
The Neighborhood Center is a comprehensive Human Services agency in Central New York. All Services are based on a philosophy of empowerment – Helping people to help themselves. Our mission is to enrich the lives of individuals and families through cooperative opportunities, resources, and advocacy which embrace diversity, promote empowerment, and foster responsible citizenship. For more information about The Neighborhood Center and its services go to www.neighborhoodctr.org