(BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) — Mayor Richard C. David on Thursday joined Binghamton Police Chief Joseph T. Zikuski and Michael J. Hatch, Director of Crisis Services at the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier (MHAST), to outline Binghamton Police Department programs and trainings that improve interactions between police and individuals experiencing mental health crises.
“More and more often, our police officers are called into serious situations involving individuals battling mental illnesses or experiencing mental health crises,” said Mayor Richard C. David. “To ensure the safety of those residents, the public and first responders, police departments must have policies in place that reflect best practices and provide proper training to officers in mental health first aid and awareness. I commend the Binghamton Police Department for again taking a proactive approach in its work by updating its policy and training requirements.”
Earlier this year, the Binghamton Police Department became one of only five law enforcement agencies in New York State to complete a pledge to improve interactions with individuals affected by mental illness through the One Mind Campaign. An initiative of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the One Mind Campaign requires participating law enforcement agencies to implement practices to improve police response to mental health calls.
The Binghamton Police Department completed the pledge requirements by:
- Establishing a clearly defined and sustainable relationship with at least one community mental health organization
- Developing and implementing a written policy addressing law enforcement response to persons affected by mental illness
- Demonstrating that 100 percent of sworn officers are trained and certified in Mental Health First Aid or an equivalent mental health awareness course
- Demonstrating that 20 percent of sworn officers are trained and certified in Crisis Intervention Team Training
“The Binghamton Police Department is a true law enforcement leader in response to mental health situations and providing comprehensive training to officers on how to deal with challenging calls for service,” said Michael J. Hatch, Director of Crisis Services at the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier (MHAST). “Residents of the City of Binghamton should know they have a professional and well-trained department which has adopted the latest and best police practices as it relates to mental health.”
The One Mind Campaign pledge was the latest partnership between BPD and MHAST.
Since 2016, the Binghamton Police Department (BPD) has worked with MHAST on mental health training and programs, aimed to reduce hospital emergency department transports, arrests and use of force incidents.
This crisis intervention team curriculum provides specialized training to officers responding to calls that involve individuals with mental health challenges including depression, emotional crises, and intellectual disabilities. The training includes de-escalation techniques as well as live role-play scenarios of officers responding to persons who need mental health assistance.
In 2016, an individual was transported for hospital care in 70 percent of BPD’s mental health calls. In 2019, police transports for mental health calls were reduced to 32 percent.
In Broome County, 40 percent of mental health crisis calls are within the City of Binghamton.
BPD, MHAST and the Care Compass Network are partnered on other initiatives to respond to mental health needs in the community, including:
- 9-1-1 Distressed Caller Crisis Diversion Program, which diverts low risk, non-emergency calls involving persons in emotional crisis from law enforcement response directly to trained mental health counselors. Broome County Mental Health Department, Emergency Services and UHS also partnered on the initiative.
- MHAST’s Mobile Crisis Services team, which employs trained staff to respond with law enforcement to assist persons in emotional crisis or living with mental health challenges by helping to de-escalate the situation and determine appropriate resources and services needed.
- MHAST’s Our House Short-Term Crisis Respite House, a pilot program with MHAST and the Binghamton and Johnson City police departments that will allow law enforcement to provide individuals facing mental health challenges an alternative to hospitalization with access to short-term respite housing and assistance by trained peers in a safe and nurturing environment.
In addition, Mayor David committed $50,000 in the 2021 budget to support MHAST programs in crisis intervention.
“The Binghamton Police Department has been proactive in cultivating relationships with mental health and social services agencies, encouraging alternatives to arrest or hospitalization that will achieve better outcomes for those in need,” said Chief Joseph T. Zikuski. “It’s part of our efforts to be a forward-thinking 21st Century police agency and a statewide leader in mental health training and response.”
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