When someone has a mental health crisis

DA says police are sometimes first on the scene

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 8/11/21

MONTICELLO, NY — “Village of Liberty police,” Sullivan County District Attorney Meagan Galligan recounted at last week’s public safety meeting, “responded to a situation …

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When someone has a mental health crisis

DA says police are sometimes first on the scene

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — “Village of Liberty police,” Sullivan County District Attorney Meagan Galligan recounted at last week’s public safety meeting, “responded to a situation where a person was undergoing a clear mental health crisis. In fact, he was pouring gasoline on himself... and distributed about 25 gallons all over the interior and exterior of his vehicle.”

Village and state police were able to “safely and peaceably transport that individual to the hospital.”

And about 12 hours later, he was scheduled to be released “without having undergone any psychiatric treatment,” Galligan said. The hospital made sure that the gasoline he’d ingested wasn’t enough to harm him, she added. 

“Luckily, we were able to intervene with the help of John Liddle and Melissa Stickle, and we were able to get that individual the treatment he needs, but it begs the question: What happens when law enforcement is not involved?” Another situation involved someone angry at the Liberty School District, who had identified and terrified targets. 

“What do we do?” Galligan asked. How do we get these people into treatment? 

“There has been an extreme increase in the number of people we deal with who are in the midst of a mental health crisis.” And the police, far too often, are first on the scene. 

In the first case, the person needed medication for schizophrenia, she said, and there was an issue with insurance. It took sheriff Mike Schiff, Galligan and the Liberty police chief “offer[ing] to guarantee payment for that medical treatment” and then, the hospital was able to take care of it.

“But what happens,” she asked, “when we don’t push and push and push? What would happen if he was released without psychiatric treatment and then interacts with law enforcement?”

These situations include matters outside of penal law, so the district attorney’s office, the sheriff’s department and others will work with social services to keep the community safe, Galligan said. And that community includes “those undergoing mental health crises and those members who interact” with them. 

Because these mental-health situations “are affecting the probation department, they’re affecting every police force available to us.”

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