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Suffolk police have begun diverting some 911 callers to mental health crisis hotlines

Suffolk County Police
Elvert Barnes

Suffolk County Police have started diverting some 911 calls to mental crisis hotline workers, which is part of the state-mandated police reform plan implemented last year.

Police said about 150 calls to 911 have been diverted to mental health workers over the last nine months. This is one of three mental health components of the county’s police reform plan.

The department said it has also referred around 170 so-called “high utilizers” of 911 to the Family Service League for assistance. Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said 70% of those referrals have had positive outcomes.

“Connecting high utilizers with the necessary services allows our police officers to stay on patrol to make sure they are protecting our communities,” Harrison said.

Additionally, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the department has exceeded its goal of getting 20% of patrol officers enhanced mental health response training.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.