Sen. Schumer: Madison County taking ‘lead on mental health,’ now diverts some 911 calls to social workers

Local News

WAMPSVILLE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As part of his annual tour of all 62 counties in New York, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer visited Madison County on Tuesday, which he said was taking “a lead on mental health issues.”

Senator Schumer touted the American Rescue Plan’s $5 billion dedicated to mental health and addiction programs.

“I worked very hard to get these funds in,” Schumer told NewsChannel 9 at his event. “Now we want to see them distributed. The funds on the shelf in Washington or in Albany do no good. The funds here in Madison County and Central New York and at all our clinics is where we need them.”

Recently, Madison County established a Mental Health Task Force after a surge of calls from people in crisis.

The county’s director of mental health, Teisha Cook, said, “We want the community to tell us what it needs. I think once we get that feedback, we are going to hit the ground running, and this money will help us implement programs.”

Cook told NewsChannel 9 on Tuesday that her department of mental health has partnered with Madison County’s 911 Center to more appropriately respond to calls from people in crisis.

The 911 Center doesn’t look different, but listening to the dispatchers shows how some calls are handled differently. After a series of initial questions, people in mental health crisis will have their calls forwarded to Madison County’s 24-hour crisis hotline.

One of the county’s managing social workers, Kathryn Hopkins, takes some of those calls. She tells NewsChannel 9, “If someone calls 911, they don’t necessarily need police to go out. 911 can’t offer something else. They can divert the call to us, we can help the person use coping skills, or deescalate whatever they’re feeling.”

The 911 forwarding is new, but the hotline is not.

In 2019, before the pandemic, the hotline took in 192 calls.

In 2020, the call volume increased to 485.

In 2021, only six months in, the number of calls is 614.

The social workers blame the pandemic on the deterioration of mental health, but give it credit as cover to help some people seek long-overdue help.

People who need help in Madison County can call 315-366-2327 (prompt 1).

Other Central New Yorkers can call CONTACT in Syracuse at 315-251-0600.

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