BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) – The West Seneca Police Department launched a behavioral health program in 2021 with Endeavor Health.
Department officials say the program continues to be a success for the team and the community.
A behavioral health clinician, Stefanie Matta, works for the West Seneca Police Department, and she says her position has been beneficial for both parties.
“I always find it useful that the officer knows I’m there, but even more so the person who called the police,” she says. “Like there’s another resource out there to slow things down and make sure they get the right treatment and the right resources.”
Division Patrol Captain Brian Cosgrove adds.
“We tried to set it up so that if we deal with the person who is in crisis again at a later date, we already have a good rapport with them,” he says.
Matta and his team must take action when responding to a mental health call.
“If the individual is suicidal, the officer comes in first. Meanwhile, I’m checking the story,” she says. “I’m checking to see if I’ve interacted with this person before. The officer also checks the house for weapons or physical violence before calling me into the house.
The two officials say the program has been successful in keeping 77% of people out of the criminal justice system.
“This whole program is about diverting individuals from the mental health and criminal justice system who don’t need to be there,” says Matta. “It’s not appropriate that they are here. They might commit a low-level crime, but it’s because of the mental health crisis they’re going through, so we’re making sure they assess that on the spot.
They say that recently there has been no increase in mental health crises in their area.
“I think there’s also an increase in people wanting to reach out,” says the behavioral health clinician. “I think that kind of stuff, with everyone staying at home and isolated from the world, they realize there are resources there. There is help there.
The patrol captain says this initiative marks one of his accomplishments.
“When I became a police officer, my goal was to leave this place better than when I arrived. I think this program is definitely something that helps,” says Captain Cosgrove.