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Bello seeks approval of grant to expand mental health intervention program 

click to enlarge Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.
A federal grant will allow the county to expand its Forensic Intervention Team, a mental health intervention program, so that it operates around the clock.

The Forensic Intervention Team pairs county mental health clinicians with police officers responding to calls in which a person is experiencing a crisis. The county has received a $653,199 US Department of Justice Grant to make the intervention team a 24-hours-a-day initiative. He’s submitted a measure seeking acceptance of the grant to the County Legislature, which will consider it during a meeting Tuesday.

In September, Bello announced his administration's plans to expand the Forensic Intervention Team into an around-the-clock operation. The county was to put up $360,000 toward the initiative, which was also counting on $300,000 that city officials had designated for FIT or to bolster its own programs to provide a non-law enforcement response to mental health calls.

The city ultimately chose to use its funds in house, stalling the Forensic Intervention Team expansion.

In his legislation, Bello notes that the federal grant will close that gap and then some. The funding is for the period from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2023, and it will be used to increase staffing for the Forensic Intervention Team so it can cover the overnight hours. During a news conference last week, Bello said the funding “can actually be used to support a 24-7 operation of FIT out into the coming years.”

Bello first announced his plans to expand the Forensic Intervention Team after the death of Daniel Prude at the hands of Rochester Police Department officers was made public on September 2.

In the early morning hours of March 23, Prude was standing in the middle of Jefferson Ave. naked and in clear mental distress when he was first approached by an officer. The officer ordered Prude to the ground and handcuffed him but as minutes passed, Prude became agitated. He lost consciousness and suffocated as three officers restrained him and was transported by ambulance to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he died a week later.

In late September, Kimberly Butler resigned from her position as chief of clinical and forensic services for the Monroe County Office of Mental Health after an e-mail surfaced in which she shared psychiatric information about Prude with a Rochester police official. Butler was supervisor of the Forensic Intervention Team.

Bello said last week that he wants to fill that position before hiring a new team of people for the FIT.

“That position’s been posted, that decision will be made in just the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime we’re going to be utilizing other resources to stand it up 24-7 in the short term,” Bello said. “And then we can figure out, with our new leader of the program, how to use and leverage that new $600,000 grant that we got to make it even better and to be able to sustain this long-term.”

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

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