[6/13/20. (l-r) Chennel Anderson, Frederick Douglass and Kelly Linn Kreider. Olivia Kim’s statue outside the College at Brockport’s Educational Opportunity Program on Court Street. [Photo: David Kramer from What is it to be “Woke?” ]
Like many Rochestarians, I watched in horror the footage of Daniel Prude, naked and suffering from asphyxia — later dying — after police detained him during a mental health and substance use crisis. I wondered what could be done to prevent similar tragedies, ones occurring all too often.
Every year more than 1 in 5 New Yorkers experience symptoms of a mental health disorder. 1.9 million New Yorkers have a substance use problem.¹ Most likely, nearly everyone in our community knows someone touched by mental illness and addiction.
Our current system places law enforcement officers in the role of responding to mental health and substance use calls. For chronically ill community members, this system has led to the mass incarceration and even death.
S4814, Daniel’s Law, is set to change the way our community and state handle people experiencing a mental health crisis. Developed by Senator Samra Brouk of New York’s 55th district in partnership with community organizers, the bill includes creating both state and regional mental health councils, response units for mental health emergencies, and culturally competent education for SUNY students pursuing mental health careers.
New Yorkers deserve the best and most competent care when experiencing a crisis. Law enforcement officers are not trained mental health professionals, and having a mental health crisis is not against the law. Therefore, it is only logical that law enforcement officers should not be handling these calls. Reimagining our community and creating an emergency response team to de-escalate situations, communicate in culturally competent ways, and gaining consent before transportation are all essential and critical for our public health structure.
Regardless of political affiliation, this bill ultimately is an investment for our community. S4814 provides safety for some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers and saves taxpayers billions of dollars annually. Our current system costs taxpayers $500 million per year to incarcerate people with serious mental illnesses. The total yearly economic burden of serious mental illness in New York is $29.7 billion; due mostly to lost productivity in the money earning market.³
Investing in the proper care of these community members offers huge financial and social returns by freeing up law enforcement officers to handle actual crime, avoiding lawsuits in mental health related calls, and rebuilding trust within the community to call on police when in danger. Daniel’s Law — based on the best practices of the mental health profession — will work. Rochester has the opportunity to be a frontrunner and example to our state and country on how to reimagine policing and mental health care. I believe supporting S4814 is a significant step in this direction, and could be a unifying bill in a very divided political climate.
As an aspiring social worker at Roberts Wesleyan College, I welcome the opportunity to use my training to help people in their moments of greatest need.
— Kelly lives in Honeoye Falls with her husband and two children.
¹ THE COST OF MENTAL ILLNESS: NEW YORK FACTS AND FIGURES, (USC Shaeffer)