WAMPSVILLE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)- Madison County is finding ways to address mental health in the community. Their 911 dispatchers are trained to determine when someone is having a crisis, and connects them to services.

The 911 diversion program began in October of 2021. Frank McFall, the director for Madison County 911 said they’ve seen a need. “There’s a huge increase from before the pandemic until now, just mental health calls have skyrocketed.”

When dispatchers get a call, they have to ask a series of questions. “What’s going on and why are you feeling like this? Then we ask a few questions like whether they feel like they want to hurt themselves and we’ll ask do you have a plan?” He says if they do have a plan, then law enforcement may need to get involved. If they don’t, then they’ll transfer the call to the county’s crisis line.

Kathryn Hopkins is the Mental Health Treatment Clinic Program Coordinator for the Madison County Offices of Mental Health. She’s one of the people who takes some of the calls. “A lot of times it’s you know maybe they’re experiencing like a panic attack, or they’re in a lot of distress and crying.” She says they may need support. “There may be a need for other intervention but it allows more time to figure out if there’s something going on.”

She believes having something like this available to the community, benefits everyone. “It helps the person in the community feel supported in a way they may not even realize they wanted because they’re getting connected with someone who can provide them with support when they’re in distress, and it allows the police officers to be available for crime or other things that are going on, and not feel like they have to respond to a mental health crisis when that’s not what they’re specifically trained to do.”

She says after they speak with the person in crisis, they check in with them to see if they have ongoing treatment or support. If they don’t they give them resources so they can get what they need.

The number for the crisis line is (315) 366-2327.