Curran signs Lafazan-led mental health committee bill

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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed unanimously-passed legislation sponsored by Legislator Siela Bynoe and Legislator Josh Lafazan to study alternative approaches to mental health-related interventions by the Nassau County Police Department. (Photo courtesy of the Nassau County Executive's Office)

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed legislation on Wednesday, introduced by Legislators Siela A. Bynoe (D-Westbury) and Joshua Lafazan (D-Syosset), to direct the county to convene a committee tasked with studying alternative approaches to mental health responses and intervention by law enforcement.

Passed unanimously by the Nassau County Legislature on Aug. 3, the bill will study mental health police response, and explore creating a mental health unit with the Nassau Police Department, according to Lafazan.

The committee, which will be co-chaired by Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and Department of Human Services Commissioner Carolyn McCummings, will convene its first meeting within 30 days, issuing a report to Curran and the legislature within six months of enactment.

Potential recommendations include but are not limited to creating a mental health unit within the Nassau County Police Department; establishing protocols for co-deploying mental and behavioral health professionals and non-law enforcement personnel to mental or behavioral health-related police calls, and conducting a nationwide review of best practices in alternative approaches to mental health crisis intervention.

“Disturbing video footage from a recent arrest in Far Rockaway and the fatal outcomes of police interventions in Oceanside and East Northport vividly illustrates why it is so important to ensure that we are taking every possible step to optimally equip Nassau County police officers to excel in their responses to mental health crisis calls,” Bynoe said in a statement. “The Legislature’s action is a step toward fulfilling this mandate, and I am grateful for the support of our colleagues for empowering stakeholders to engage with this essential issue.”

“Efforts that promote the study of new ideas and foster an environment that encourages an ongoing exploration of best practices in policing are bound to be advantageous for Nassau County residents and the officers entrusted with serving and protecting them,” Lafazan said in a statement. “I applaud my colleagues in the Nassau County Legislature for voting in favor of this proposal and clearing the way for collaborative and exhaustive exploration of approaches for keeping our communities safe and protecting our most vulnerable citizens.”

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