CPEP brings new hope to mental health needs

John Christensen
The Chronicle-Express

Part Two of a series on rural mental health services in Yates County

PENN YAN — The Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) now being used by Penn Yan Police and the Yates County Sheriff’s Office for mental hygiene calls, provides crisis and emergency psychiatric services outside of the hospital for residents of Yates, Ontario, Wayne, and Seneca Counties. It is a 24/7 team of Mental Health Professionals trained in crisis assessment and intervention. They also provide evaluations regarding the need for an Emergency Dept. visit or admission. Additionally, they provide Mobile Crisis Team response for the four-county region of the Finger Lakes.

Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital

“Basically the police department uses CPEP when we come across someone who is exhibiting mental health problems, but the issues don’t rise to the level of an immediate Mental Health Law arrest,” says Penn Yan Police Chief Thomas Dunham. “If our officers come across this situation, we will call CPEP and they will send personnel out to meet with the person in crisis. From there, CPEP can either offer them services or possibly get a doctor to sign a mental hygiene pick up order. Depending on the circumstances, we may or may not respond with CPEP.”

Contrasted with the outcomes from relying on Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital’s treatment of mental health cases in recent years, Dunham is understandably impressed by CPEP.

“We have had great success with this program, and their staff has been excellent to deal with.” 

Of the 36 total mental hygiene arrests by Penn Yan Police – eight of 36 have been taken to Clifton Springs (some from before PYPD’s July 2 memo). Concerns have been raised over the amount of time the on-duty PYPD officers will spend away transporting such cases to clifton Springs rather than their main duty of patrolling the village. Another concern is how some cases who are released would return home.

“One of my biggest concerns about taking people to Clifton Springs would be transporting someone to another community and stranding them there,” says Dunham. “This will not be the case,” he asserts.

“If someone absolutely had no way home, we would go and get them. However, after speaking to staff at Clifton Springs, I do not think we will need to do that. Clifton has advised me they are used to dealing with this issue because they take people from all over already, and they have a system worked out with local transportation to get people home. 

“Our main concern when dealing with mental hygiene situations is the safety of everybody involved. We want to make sure the person in crisis is safe, the community is safe and our officers are safe. We feel that with Soldiers & Sailors losing its 9.39 designation, the best thing for our community is to bring people who are under 9.41 arrest to Clifton Springs Hospital.”

George Roets, Yates County’s Director of Community Services, explains more about the evolution of the move to rely on Clifton Springs.

“As you know the inpatient unit has been closed for months,” he says. “A final closure letter was recently sent to Soldiers & Sailors indicating formal inpatient closure in 90 days. Roets says the hospital needed to plan for the actual closure as it would mean that their 9.39 Status would also be closed. Upon completion of the process, Clifton Springs will then officially become the nearest 9.39 hospital. 

“Soldiers & Sailors would no longer have mental health staff or a psychiatrist available in the Emergency Department,” says Roets. “However, the Emergency Department will remain fully capable of providing emergency treatment to the mental health and substance use population, as needed.” 

Roets says there is an active Crisis intervention Training work group which meets monthly under the leadership of him and Sheriff Ron Spike. 

“We have overseen CIT training, coordination with the mobile mental health team from Clifton Springs, their other services, improved access to resource information for law enforcement in the field, coordination with mental health and substance use programs, improved procedures and protocols related to emotionally disturbed individuals, and better coordination among local services to redirect individuals to treatment and support rather than to law enforcement by default,” says Roets. 

“Law enforcement and the mobile crisis team coordinate on cases and direct lap top connection is available from the field to a psychiatrist at Clifton Springs. Coordinated efforts at early identification and intervention with emotionally disturbed individuals is an ongoing priority for the work group and is showing some success.”

The work group members includes both Soldiers & Sailors and Clifton Springs hospitals, social services, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, probation, emergency management, public health, and community members who meet monthly. 

“The final closure of the inpatient unit and loss of the 9:39 status has been an ongoing agenda item so we have considered the necessary changes over time.”

Roets says outpatient mental health care will continue at Soldiers & Sailors, as well as services to the Yates County Jail. There are other options available to residents as well.

• Finger Lakes Community Health has expanded outpatient mental health services at their Penn Yan clinic and now accept individuals without admission to their primary health clinic. 

• Wayne County Behavioral Health has begun providing mental health satellite services to the Dundee Central School replacing Schuyler Mental Health that withdrew in June. 

• FLACRA has been awarded a Comprehensive Community Behavioral Health Clinic grant (CCBHC) which will provide integrated mental health and substance use disorder treatment in Yates County. Initially, they will focus on adults but will add children's services in the future. Services will be provided at their Penn Yan site and in the community.

“The future plan to establish a school based integrated primary care clinic (FLCH) at Penn Yan Central School continues to move through the bureaucracy with hope before the end of the year,” says Roets. “So, the local outpatient mental health services available appears to be going in a positive direction. The next focus will be an increased attention to quality care and outcomes.”