BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The West Seneca Police Department launched a behavioral health program in 2021 with Endeavor Health.
Officials of the department say the program continues to be a success for the team and community.
A behavioral health clinician, Stefanie Matta, works for West Seneca Police, and she says her position has been beneficial for both sides.
“I always find it’s helpful for the officer to know that I’m there but more so the individual that called the police,” she expresses. “Like there is another resource there to kind of slow the situation down and make sure they’re getting the right treatment and right resources.”
The Patrol Capt. of the division, Brian Cosgrove, adds on.
“We tried to set it up so if we deal with the person that's in crisis again at a later date going into it, we already have a good report with them,” he says.
Matta and her team need to take steps when responding to a mental health call.
“If the individual is suicidal, the officer goes in first. Meanwhile, I’m checking for history,” she says. “I’m checking to see if I ever interacted with this person before. The officer is also checking to see if the house has any weapons or physical violence going on before they call me into the house.”
Both officials say the program has successfully saved 77% of people from becoming a part of the criminal justice system.
“This program as a whole is to divert individuals from the mental health and criminal justice system that don’t need to be there,” Matta says. “It’s not appropriate for them to be there. They could be committing a low-level crime, but it’s because of the mental health crisis they're going through, so we’re making sure they’re assessing that situation on scene.”
They say recently, there hasn’t been an uptick in mental health crises in their area.
“I think there’s also an uptick of people wanting to reach out,” the behavioral health clinician says. “I think that kind of with everyone staying home and being secluded from the world they realize there are resources out there. There’s help out 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 came in. I feel this program is definitely something that helps,” Capt. Cosgrove says.