Molinaro Addresses NYS Senate’s Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities Committee

Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro addressed the New York State Senate’s Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee this morning at the invitation of Senator Robert Ortt, who chairs the committee.   The County Executive discussed Dutchess County’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, which fosters an inclusive and supportive environment for residents with special needs.  The County Executive also provided insight about Dutchess County’s experience with crisis intervention training for law enforcement as well as Autism Spectrum Disorder training for first responders for legislation the committee was considering.

“In Dutchess County, our community has embraced our ThinkDIFFERENTLY principles and have been extremely supportive of our wide variety of work to ensure we are doing all we can to make our county inclusive and accessible for all,” County Executive Molinaro said. “I am so pleased to share our experiences here today and offer support for the legislation providing for statewide Crisis Intervention Training and Autism training for first responders.   We have seen the success of these initiatives in Dutchess County and would love to have statewide support for these critical programs.”

“ThinkDIFFERENTLY” is County Executive Molinaro’s call to action for local residents, organizations and businesses to think about the way they relate to their neighbors with special needs. Since the initiative’s inception less than two years ago, Dutchess County Government has taken specific steps to “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” about residents of all abilities.

Just last week, the Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response hosted acclaimed instructor Bill Cannata, Coordinator of the Autism and Law Enforcement Education Center, for Autism Training for First Responders.   Several dozen law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and security guards from around Dutchess County were in attendance for the training.  Participants learned how to identify the characteristics and behavior of a person living on the autism spectrum; how to effectively communicate with someone with autism; how to respond to an emergency involving someone on the spectrum; how to build relationships with the autism community; and how to utilize special tactics, rescue techniques and patient care options in such instances.

Dutchess County has also taken the lead on Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, with County Executive Molinaro committed to ensuring all law enforcement receive CIT training or Mental Health First Aid.  CIT training is designed to help educate police officers on how to effectively interact with individuals in their communities who are in crisis due to behavioral health or developmental disorders, creating a partnership between the law enforcement, advocacy and mental health communities.   As part of the training, officers participate in role-playing sessions and cover a wide range of mental health-related topics, including communication skills, understanding suicide/suicide intervention, substance abuse/co-occurring disorders, veterans’ mental health issues, and specific mental illnesses/personality disorders.    Currently,  35% of law enforcement officers in Dutchess County have received CIT training.

County Executive Molinaro has spoken about Dutchess County’s ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative across the state, encouraging every city, town and village in New York to consider adopting “Think DIFFERENTLY” resolutions that promote supportive environments for residents of all abilities.  More than 60 communities to date have passed resolutions adopting their own Think DIFFERENTLY commitments.    County Executive Molinaro will be in Geneva, NY on Friday, April 28th at the invitation of NYS Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb to speak to community organizations, service providers, local leaders and others about the ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative.

More information about Dutchess County’s ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative is available at dutchessny.gov/thinkdifferently.

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