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Seneca Falls Police Department launches new teleconferencing program to enhance mental health services

The Seneca Falls Police Department has launched a new tele-health program in collaboration with Seneca County Mental Health to create better outcomes in the community.

Chief Stu Peenstra says the purpose of the program is to increase access to mental health consultations and decrease the often-difficult interactions between law enforcement and individuals suffering from a mental health crisis.

Using iPad’s the Seneca Falls Police Department will connect mental health professionals with those on various scenes. Mental health staff can then conduct an evaluation remotely via secure teleconferencing software and help officers determine what the best course of action is to resolve it.

“Implementatoin is very timely,” Chief Peenstra said about the program. “The Seneca County Community Counseling Center and CPEP (Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at Clifton Springs Hospital) have become adept at providing telehealth services. We quickly realized that implementation of this program would provide a higher level of support for the increasing mental health service demand.”

He says the program was modeled after a state-led initiative called “MAP” or the Mobile Access Program. “This model has been very successful in the Finger Lakes region. Ours model is unique in that SFPD made the decision to innovate and collaborate directly with SCCCC and CPEP to better serve the Seneca Falls community struggling with mental health crisis’,” Peenstra continued.

If an officer encountered a situation that required a councilor’s intervention – the iPad technology would allow quick access. Mental health professionals say it’s important to provide services in a timely fashion, if they are going to be successful.

“We hope to increase both hospital and jail diversions by providing additional support to stabilize and connect people with community services,” Peenstra added. “This program should increase the ability of an individual needing mental health services to remain in their environment. Stabilizing someone in their community is a preferred method and alleviates a sometimes difficult situation that officers and individuals face when transporting an individual for mental health services against their will.”

Editor’s Note: Next week will feature a conversation on the Inside the FLX podcast with Chief Peenstra and other community stakeholders on the program.