Assemblymember Bronson and Senator Brouk Introduces Legislation to Create Mental Health Response Councils

Assemblymember Harry Bronson (D-138 AD) and State Senator Samra Brouk (D-55 SD) announced that they introduced legislation to establish state and regional mental health response councils, which would permit mental health professionals to respond to mental health and substance abuse emergencies.

Assemblymember Harry Bronson (AD138): “Time and time again, we’ve seen the police response to a mental health emergency escalate the situation, leading to unnecessary violence and even death,” Bronson said. “The tragic death of Daniel Prude last year and the recent pepper spraying of a 9-year-old child have rightly outraged our communities and shown that real change is needed to prevent more tragedies like these from occurring. This legislation will help ensure our most vulnerable friends and neighbors are directly connected to trained mental health professionals who will treat them with compassion at their time of need.”

The situation in Rochester, NY is one of countless examples across the state and country of the consequences of not providing the most appropriate response to a mental health or substance abuse crisis.

Senator Samra Brouk, SD-55, Mental Health Committee Chair: “Our community has seen twice in the past six months that police officers are not equipped to handle individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. In September, we learned of Daniel Prude’s death on a freezing March night, and then, just last weekend, we saw another egregious example of police violence, when a nine-year-old girl in distress was handcuffed and pepper sprayed. Our current system for supporting community members in crisis is broken. We need to provide people with health and treatment, not push more members of our community into jails and prisons. As the Chair of the Mental Health Committee, it is incumbent upon me to end this cycle of violence and brutalization. Daniel’s Law will provide essential, compassionate mental health services for those in our community who need them most.”

New Yorkers that are experiencing mental health and substance abuse crises are best served by a public health response that maximizes consent-based care and services, and that minimizes the role of law enforcement and the use of force. The furnishing of consent-based treatment and care to New Yorkers experiencing mental health or substance abuse crisis and delivered by trained, culturally competent responders is a critical component of our state’s public health structure.

Mr. Joe Prude: “I want to thank Assemblyman Bronson and Senator Brouk and the entire Rochester Area Statewide Delegation for introducing this important piece of mental health care legislation. What happened to my family was a tragedy and I pray that it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Mental illness is not a crime and shouldn’t be treated that way. With the passage of this legislation I know that people will now get proper and appropriate treatment to help them get their lives back on track.”

Mental health response units (MHRU) are trained to de-escalate mental health and substance abuse emergency situations, which are typically nonviolent in nature. While police officers are often the ones called to these types of situations, they frequently lack the experience and training they need to properly help these individuals. This legislation would create state and regional mental health response councils, as well as MHRUs, to step in and respond to these emergencies instead of police officers.

Melanie Funchess, Mental Health Advocate: “This day marks a watershed moment for our community and our state. This marks the beginning of us as a community looking at how we address and take care of our citizens who live with mental health challenges in times of crisis. We are moving from a time of punitive and traumatic intervention to a time of true help and support. In a country where 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health challenge in their lifetime, I am glad NY is leading the way in reimagining what help and support look like.”

Additionally, the bill will promote the public health, safety and welfare of all families by broadly ensuring a public health-based response to anyone in New York experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis; to offer and ensure the most appropriate response to, treatment of, and transport of individuals experiencing crisis due to mental health conditions or substance use; and to deescalate crisis situations so that as few New Yorkers as possible experience nonconsensual transport, use of force, or criminal consequences as a result of mental health or substance abuse crisis.

Ashley Gantt and Stanley Martin: “Daniel’s Law is our chance to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable community members with compassion, care, and expertise. It is our chance to get it right, to act with courage and to change the outcomes when in the midst of a crisis.”

Bronson and Brouk’s bill will also require 911 dispatchers to be trained to properly dispatch the proper response for the call for help. By dispatching mental health response units that are trained to de-escalate mental health and substance abuse emergency situations, the majority of which are overwhelmingly non-violent in nature, it will assure our families that their loved ones will receive the appropriate treatment, and not be treated like criminals.

“Members of our community, including those from Free the People Roc, Black Lives Matter, The Black Healers Network, and the Rochester Clergy, were letting their voices be heard to all that would listen and calling for change, Bronson continues. “Everyone of us is committed to justice, equality, and change with the belief that if we work together, we can make a difference. Together we can ensure this tragedy does not repeat itself in our community, in our state or nation. I want to thank the folks here today, and the many people who came to the table and shared their ideas on how we can make this change in the name of Daniel Prude.”

Bronson and Brouk want to thank Lee Rowland, Ashley Gantt, Melanie Funchess, Stanley Martin, Iman Abid, Reenah Golden, Beth Haroules, Dr. Celia McIntosh, and Aaliyah Turner. The legislation, also known as Daniel’s Law, is co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Demond Meeks, Sarah Clark and Jen Lunsford as well as Senator Jeremy Cooney.