I am a mental health provider, and the social work department at the University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State and Daemen College does not speak for me.
Nor do they speak for the hundreds of other citizens and mental health professionals who eagerly signed a petition refuting the department’s open letter to Mayor Brown essentially stating the same sentiments they said in the Nov. 7 Another Voice, “Police are ill-suited to handling mental health crises.”
Embedded in the social work code of ethics is the value of “service” defined as a social worker’s primary goal is helping people in need and to address social problems.
The people in need, are our police departments and those living with mental illness. The social problem is that the community calls the police when they are frightened, in danger, assaulted or otherwise, whether it is a mental health emergency or not. They call the police, and they should.
The burden on deciding whether to call a crisis response team, or the police, currently is on the person making the call. Should they be responsible for deciphering whether someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, or a criminal outburst and the danger associated there with?
The collaboration between Endeavor Health Services and the Buffalo Police Department (as well as the Cheektowaga Police Department) offers the community both services in real time. No one is arguing whether the police are able to “handle mental health crises,” in fact, it is the opposite.