Alliance Note: The Alliance for Rights and Recovery’s (formerly NYAPRS) Harvey Rosenthal, CEO, and Luke Sikinyi, Director of Public Policy, joined advocates and community members to give testimony pushing for the expedited implementation of Daniel’s Law non-police first responders for mental health and substance use crises yesterday at the first Daniel’s Law Task Force Stakeholder Engagement Session.
The Daniel’s Law Task Force is charged with reviewing possible programs and determining how best to implement non-police responder teams throughout the state. The legislation which created the Task Force requires the group to submit recommendations to the governor by the end of 2025, but we cannot wait until after 2025 to make these responder teams available. New Yorkers need the support non-police responders will provide now. We need to have pilot programs throughout the state to help us understand how best to implement the service.
Yesterday’s engagement session allowed the Task Force to hear about the need for these responder teams from community members and advocates. Alliance staff spoke about the need to provide alternatives to police response to align with a recent Department of Justice letter of findings which determined Minneapolis violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by unnecessarily responding to emergencies involving people with mental health issues with only police.
The Alliance will continue to push for the creation of Daniel’s Law pilot programs and a shorter timeline for the Task Force to submit recommendations to the Governor. You can join our advocacy efforts in support of Daniel’s Law by attending the next Task Force meeting in Albany on November 28th from 10:30-1:30pm. You can also watch the meeting live through this link. Read below to learn more about the engagement session and see attached to read The Alliance’s testimony.
Daniel’s Law Task Force Holds Public Meeting on Responses to Behavioral Crises
By George Gandy | Rochester First | November 20, 2023
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Daniel Law’s Task Force held the first of many meetings to get public feedback on dealing with behavioral health crises Monday.
According to the NYS Office of Mental Health, this was one of many stakeholder meetings for the task force to improve the way communities engage with people in a behavioral health crisis.
In March of 2020, Daniel Prude was having what NYS Attorney General Letitia James called a “mental health crisis.” Body camera footage showed police pinning him while he was naked and putting a mesh spit mask over his head. He was hospitalized and died days later.
The task force was established in response to Prude’s death in order to guide behavioral health crisis response and diversion services.
Addressing Mental Health Crises: Initial Meeting Held for Daniel’s Law Task Force
By WHAM | WHAM- Rochester | November 20, 2023
Rochester, N.Y. — There’s a new effort to prevent tragedies involving those suffering a mental health crisis.
The case of Daniel Prude, who died after he was taken into custody by Rochester police during a mental hygiene arrest back in March 2020, prompted waves of protest in the city.
Over three years later, the initial meeting of the Daniel’s Law Task Force was held Monday. It was the first in a series of stakeholder meetings for the group, which is intended to improve the way communities engage people experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
“This stakeholder engagement session is aimed at gathering our first feedback from the public and those who have personally encountered an individual suffering a behavioral health crisis or experienced one themselves,” explained Office of Mental Health Commissioner and Task Force Chair Dr. Ann Sullivan. “This input will be a critical component of the task force’s work to improve crisis response across our state.”
No charges were brought against the officers involved in Prude’s arrest, after the attorney general’s office found they had followed their training.
Police initially described Prude’s death as a drug overdose, but protests erupted after body camera video was released following pressure from Prude’s family.
The task force was formed shortly after the public outrage to raise awareness and help the community understand how to handle a mental health crisis.
The group will also review models in the U.S. and across the world, which could be used in establishing a crisis response team.Addressing mental health crises: Initial meeting held for Daniel’s Law Task Force (msn.com)
Daniel’s Law Task Force
November 20, 2023
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak.
I am giving these remarks on behalf of Harvey Rosenthal, our CEO, myself, and the greater Alliance for Rights and Recovery community.
Daniel Prude’s killing was preventable but not uncommon. People with untreated mental health challenges in the United States are 16 times more likely to die during police interactions than those without these challenges (1).
A June 2023 letter of findings from the Department of justice concluded that Minneapolis and their police department were in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because they primarily used MPD officers to address calls from people in need of behavioral health attention who posed no threat of harm (6). The findings asserted the city was depriving people with behavioral health disabilities “an equal opportunity to benefit from the City’s emergency response services” because they did not make reasonable accommodations to address their needs (6).
In the findings letter, the DOJ suggested the city make simple changes to their emergency response system including improving the alternatives to police response and reforming dispatching processes and procedures to ensure the appropriate responders are called to behavioral health calls.
New York State must implement statewide alternatives to properly address these calls, or risk violating the ADA like Minneapolis.
Much work has gone into studying alternative response models throughout the nation and the Task Force should look to some of the existing analyses of the programs to expedite the implementation of pilot programs. Two successful alternative response models from outside the state the Task Force should be considering are The Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Street (CAHOOTS) and The Street Crisis Response Teams programs (2,3).
CAHOOTS, which operates in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, sends teams of mental health workers and EMTs as first responders to mental health and substance use crisis calls (2,4). Police are not involved in these calls and are only brought in when the teams determine it’s necessary (2,4).
Critically, these teams operate 24/7, 365 days a year and community members can call 911 and have a CAHOOTS team dispatched because dispatchers are trained on when to contact CAHOOTS and the teams carry police radios for quick response.
In 2019, these teams responded to nearly 24,000 calls — about 17% of all 911-dispatch calls — and requested police backup in less than 1% of cases (2). The communities in Eugene and Springfield have come to rely on these services, which reportedly save the state of Oregon around $8.5 million a year on emergency services (5).
A similar program in San Francisco, The Street Crisis Response Teams, is also 24/7 365 and connected to 911 dispatchers (3). San Francisco improves the CAHOOTS model by adding a peer to the team of EMTs and Clinicians (3). Peers connect with and gain the trust of clients. The program has seen positive returns, with only 17% of the crisis calls taken by teams needing transport to the hospital and 81% of calls safely resolved in the community (3). This shows that quality crisis response can be done more effectively, resulting in less people being hospitalized and more being connected to adequate care in the community. The serious need to provide adequate alternative responses for New Yorkers experiencing behavioral health crises as soon as possible requires swift action from the state. The Daniel’s Law Task Force must expedite the review process to provide recommendations to the state by the end of 2024, instead of waiting another year as the legislation suggests. New Yorkers cannot continue waiting for the life saving support we all know we need, which is why the Task Force, and legislature, must simultaneously pursue the implementation of Daniel’s Law pilot programs during the upcoming budget session while the review process continues.