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October 22, 2013

Mental health calls on rise for Oneonta police


Brenner said the cases he is tracking are state Mental Hygiene Law sections 9.41, regarding emergency admissions when someone with a mental illness who is a threat to self or others; 9.45, regarding involuntary admissions initiated by the county director of community services; and 22.09, which pertains to individuals who are incapacitated by alcohol and/or substances and cannot care for themselves.

Police didn't respond to “that many” mental health calls a decade ago, according to Brenner, who said he noticed the number of calls increasing about four years ago.

Brenner said he has no facts about a theory that cuts in federal funding have resulted in more people with mental illness released into society. But common sense would support such a scenario, he said.

“I don't think the ball is being dropped by mental health professionals,” Brenner said.

Brenner said he began looking more closely at emotional disturbance cases after he became lieutenant in spring of 2012. He said the calls may originate as requests to check on someone's welfare, to assist when someone is emotionally disturbed or in domestic disputes.

A typical call may be from a relative or friend who says a person is having a difficult time and making a reference to self-injury, Brenner said. The police dispatcher will ask if the person has a weapon, has had problems in the past and for a location.

At the scene, an officer would talk with the subject and establish if an intent and means for self-injury were present, Brenner said. In about 95 percent of the calls, the subject threatens self-injury, he said.

Officers want to prevent injury to anyone, Brenner said, and a situation may be resolved without transporting the subject to a hospital.

“There are a million scenarios,” Brenner said. “We take all of these cases seriously.”

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