Buffalo Police Department implementing new behavioral health team

Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–The Buffalo Police Department is implementing a new behavioral health team to help with mental health or substance abuse cases.

Those we spoke with say the goal of this program is to keep people out of jail and instead give them the proper care they need.

For the first time, Cheektowaga-based Endeavor Health Services is partnering with the Buffalo Police Department to team up social workers with police officers when handling certain situations.

“We’re really talking about crafting those behaviors, shaping the police response in the moment. Sarah Bonk Program Manager at Endeavor Health Services said. “If someone is experiencing a significant mental health crisis, no matter how much training you’ve sat through whether you’re a clinician or a police officer, it’s very different to have the lived experience to handle that situation appropriately.”

Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo says the department has been undergoing crisis intervention training for a while, but adding the behavioral health team takes that to the next step, especially in situations involving mental health.

“That’s the goal of this program is to bring the next level of service to people that are experiencing these crises and to help get them not into the criminal justice system but get them linked to the appropriate services so that law enforcement isn’t having to respond to their needs on the daily basis,” Rinaldo added.

The team will be made up of four members from Endeavor Health Services who will be partnering with six police officers and two lieutenants from the Buffalo Police Department.

Training is currently underway, and officials tell me they expect the team to be responding to calls together within the next couple of weeks.

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