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Members of the Village Board had raised concerns last week that the proposed agreement with Westchester County that allows the unit to be stationed at the Green Street police precinct, which is owned by the municipality, might not have a clinician that could speak both English and Spanish. The precinct is the local home base for the Westchester County police, which has provided law enforcement for the village since 2015.
Mayor Gina Picinich said that last week following the July 11 Village Board meeting she was assured by Department of Community Mental Health Commissioner Michael Orth that bilingual staff has already been hired.
“The agreement that the village is signing…will provide this space for this team to be housed here,” Picinich said. “This benefits Mount Kisco because they are closer to where our needs are.”
There are eight teams strategically placed around the county to cover every municipality in Westchester with trained staff that can respond when there is a mental health crisis. The Mount Kisco team will also answer calls in Bedford, New Castle, North Castle, Somers, Pound Ridge, North Salem and Lewisboro.
It was a recommendation made during the county’s police reform task force discussions last year.
Village Trustee Karine Patino, who was adamant that she would not vote for the agreement unless there was a bilingual clinician, said late last week that she has been given assurances that there would be bilingual staffing around the clock.
Patino said she and Deputy Mayor Lisa Abzun, who also pressed for bilingual staffing, met with County Legislator Erika Pierce (D-Katonah) while Picinich spoke with Orth, who provided the information that had been sought.
“As I expressed during the board meeting, I expected the county to have this as a priority,” Patino said. “My expectations were confirmed – the plan does provide for 24/7 bilingual staffing, which is our objective.”
Close to half of the village’s population are Spanish speakers, she said.
However, support on the Village Board for housing the Mobile Crisis Response Team in an office at the police station wasn’t unanimous. Trustee Karen Schleimer questioned why the village wasn’t receiving remuneration for use of its space while seven other communities will also benefit.
“I don’t understand for the life of me, why Mount Kisco should give it (the office space) away for free,” Schleimer said. “It’s serving all of these other municipalities, it’s an agreement for the residents of the county and I think we should get paid for the use of our space and our parking and everything else.”
Picinich said that phone and internet service is being paid for by the county but the village will pay for the electricity. She added that the relatively low cost of having the unit use an office is repaid to the village by having them stationed in the heart of the downtown.
Trustee Anne Bianchi was supportive of the team being located in Mount Kisco.
“This is a wonderful opportunity and I’m supportive of it,” Bianchi said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for Mount Kisco. We want them here.”
It is expected that the Village Board will vote on the agreement at its next scheduled meeting on Aug. 8, unless officials schedule an additional meeting before then.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/