Broome County Emergency Services has launched a new initiative, the Mental Health Diversion program. The first of its kind in the state of New York, this program is meant to create a connection between 911 dispatchers and mental health counselors.
“One out of every ten  calls are a mental health call in Broome County,” reports Michael Hatch, Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier Crisis Intervention Team Coordinator. Dispatchers new have a protocol to assess the risk of the caller by asking a series of questions. If the dispatcher determines the risk to be low, with no other criminal element or medical emergency involved the caller is immediately connected with the UHS Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP), a 24/7 crisis service staffed with mental health professionals.
“We are striving to use law enforcement as a last resort instead of a first resort,” Hatch says. The Mental Health Diversion program helps residents and first responders. It’s saving law enforcement resources and providing better and more immediate care to the person in crisis. People are avoiding ambulance rides and unnecessary emergency room visits which is also saving Medicaid spending.
The program began in December 2017 and is already seeing success. “This is really a person-centered approach, it’s not punitive, it really meets the person where they’re at,” says Nancy Williams-Frank, Broome County Commissioner of Mental Health.
Care Compass Network along with Broome County Office of Emergency Services, the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier, UHS, Lourdes Hospital, Broome County Office of Mental Health and the Broome County Police Department provided support and funding to help launch this new program in Broome County.