POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. >> Since opening earlier this month, more than 100 “guests” have gone through the doors of the Dutchess County Stabilization Center for help with a variety of mental health and substance abuse issues.
The walk-in center is the first of its kind in the state, said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, and one that he hopes will lead to a “paradigm shift in mental health and criminal justice.”
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the center, at 230 North Road in the city of Poughkeepsie, is the result of a partnership between the county, MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center, Astor Services for Children & Families, Mid-Hudson Addiction Recovert Centers, and PEOPLe Inc.
The facility is staffed by a variety of mental health professionals who can provide counseling and referral services.
The center, Molinaro said Monday, is the “culmination of about six years of refocusing our mental health infrastructure to be a much more effective tool.”
He said the ultimate goal is to divert those who are suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues from the county jail, a move that will both better serve those in need of the services and the county’s taxpayers.
“Jails and prisons in this country have become the mental health facility of last resort,” Molinaro said. “As a nation, we ought to e embarrassed by the way we treat mental illness.”
Dutchess County, he said, has been working to address that by making certain people with mental health issues get the help they need rather than simply be incarcerated.
“What this nation and this state has done is really limited its response to mental illness [and] treated it in many ways as criminal behavior,” Molinaro said.
“If you commit a crime, you still have to go before a judge, make no mistake,” he said.”But if we can identify someone before they commit a crime, if in that first…