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Genesee County Mental Health & Community Services

March 28, 2022 - 2:39pm

l_battaglia.jpgIf there’s one positive thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the overdue attention to the human services fields, especially the importance of mental health counseling and treatment.

That’s part of the message shared by Lynda Battaglia, Genesee County director of Mental Health & Community Services, in a phone interview with The Batavian.

“As a result of the pandemic, I think the mental health field has been recognized as essential. It's definitely received more recognition now than it ever has, and it's unfortunate that it took a pandemic to have that happen,” said Battaglia (photo above).

While there has been a renewed focus on mental health, substance use disorder, social services and developmental disabilities over the past two years, a by-product of that is the difficulty in finding qualified professionals to serve those in need.

According to information from LeaderStat, a national staffing agency for healthcare organizations, “The shortage of mental health care professionals coupled with the increased demand for services has led to a grim situation for many patients and providers, and there is no quick fix on the horizon.”

Projections by the Health Resources and Services Administration indicate the United States will need to add 10,000 providers by 2025 to close “the increasing divide” and more than half, over 24 million, of persons dealing with a mental health condition are going untreated and one in five adults seeking treatment is finding his or her needs unmet.

Battaglia said she is feeling a similar crunch in Genesee County as her department currently is not taking any new clients because she has five openings on her counseling staff.

“It's the times that we're in right now,” she said. “I do foresee things getting better. We are not currently taking brand new clients, but our Open Access (crisis walk-in) has remained open throughout the pandemic and remains open today.”

She said Genesee County Mental Health is at a “triaging stage” now.

“We’re taking individuals who are high need or high risk. We're really trying to triage people that call -- individuals that are being discharged from the hospital,” she advised.

Officials at other human services agencies, such as Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, also are reporting numerous job openings – from nurses to counselors to support staff.

Battaglia said she is hoping the staffing situation will get better in May and June “when we will get some clinical people who graduate with their master's in mental health counseling or social work who want to work here.”

“We do have a couple of prospective individuals who are looking to work here and have to go through that hiring process that we have here,” she said.

Currently, each of the dozen or so professionals employed at GCMH have a caseload of 90 to 110 patients.

“That’s high,” she said. “That’s not ideal, but that's what we have to work with. Our supervisors are working at high capacity and high caseloads in addition to providing supervision to staff. And that's not isolated to Genesee County Mental Health. That’s a trend across the state in regard to caseload capacity and (job) vacancies. So, my counterparts are feeling that, too.”

What that does is place additional stress on the counselors, Battaglia said.

“I have to applaud my staff. Their dedication and their resiliency and their ability to do this every day because the work in and of itself, can be challenging on a person in the field,” she said. “And then you couple that with a multitude of additional stressors -- family and all the hats that you wear and trying to put more individuals on your caseload and providing the services that you want to provide.”

Battaglia mentioned the mental health field carries a high rate of burnout.

“Self-care is essential to try to prevent burnout. There’s a lot of things that can help staff with burnout. But isolating during the pandemic was not helpful,” she explained.

“Now, with things opening up (from the COVID-19 restrictions), I can feel a shift in energy here with just more people being able to talk with one another. We still have to wear masks here, because we're considered a healthcare setting, but just the shift in energy of things being more open.”

Genesee County is advertising for positions in the department on its website and also on the Indeed worldwide employment site.

“We did two job fairs -- two virtual job fairs at two different points during the year and we had zero candidates,” she said. “That just speaks to kind of where we are in the times right now with a lot of things virtual. And there are some things like a job fair that's really challenging to do virtually.”

January 12, 2022 - 8:05pm


Severe staffing shortages among emergency response units have Genesee County officials searching for the most effective ways to transport residents experiencing mental health episodes to qualified hospitals where they can receive the evaluation and treatment they need.

Tim Yaeger, Emergency Management Services coordinator, and Lynda Battaglia, director of Mental Health & Community Services, led an hour-long discussion via Zoom with county legislators and law enforcement personnel this afternoon about a severely compromised level of ambulance service in the county.

“Why this topic is even being discussed is because there's an EMS (Emergency Management Services) crisis in New York State,” Yaeger said. “We’re looking at counties that are really in a very much of a reactionary form to figure out what they're going to do because the EMS transporting capabilities of the commercial systems are diminished.”

Yaeger said counties across the state are searching for answers as they experience lengthy response times and situations where no ambulances are available at any given time.

“We can probably talk for a long time about it, but it really comes down to pay and work environment and working conditions of the EMS system. That’s why it’s in trouble,” he said.

Emphasizing that his responsibility is to make sure ambulances are there when “the citizens of this county” call for them, Yaeger said he has been talking at length with Battaglia, Mercy EMS and Le Roy Ambulance representatives and law enforcement agency leaders about how to handle mental health incidents that fall under New York Mental Hygiene Law 9.41 and 9.45.


Section 9.41 permits police officers and peace officers to facilitate emergency admissions for immediate observation, care and treatment for any person who appears to be mentally ill and is conducting himself or herself in a manner which is likely to result in serious harm to the person or others. Section 9.45 gives similar authority to directors of community services.

In both cases, transportation to specially designated health care facilities, such as Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, Erie County Medical Center or Wyoming County Community Hospital in Warsaw, likely is warranted.

So, the question facing Genesee County legislators is: Who should transport these individuals – emergency medical technicians (or paramedics) in ambulances, police officers (sheriff's deputies, Batavia PD, Le Roy PD) or – what currently is on the table – a combination of both?

With the number of ambulances on the road in Genesee County down from where it should be, Yaeger said he has been working with Mercy EMS to make sure it prioritizes service to Genesee residents.

“Counties outside of Genesee have been relying heavily on Mercy EMS to backfill their shortcomings, and have recently over the last five, six months, it got to a point that was just not manageable anymore,” he said. “So, we worked with Mercy and changed our policy from one ALS (Advanced Life Support) ambulance to two ALS ambulances in service in this county before we will honor an out-of-county ambulance request.”

While the revised schedule is working right now, that doesn’t address the primary focus of today’s conversation – transporting of those in a mental health crisis.


Yaeger indicated that most surrounding counties use law enforcement personnel to drive the patients to the hospital, but Battaglia – along with Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron – said that, in the majority of cases, is not the way to go.

Calling it “a concerning topic,” Battaglia said those suffering from mental health issues by no means should be considered “low hanging fruit.”

“I wanted to just point that out … that the mental health individuals in the community are also those community residents that need medical services,” she said. “And I have to remind everyone, that somebody that's in a mental health crisis is ultimately considered a medical crisis.”

Battaglia said she was pleased to hear that both Yaeger and County Manager Matt Landers are looking at transports on a case-by-case basis, stating that persons exhibiting symptoms of psychosis are at acute risk of harming themselves or others need assistance from a mental health professional.

“I do have some concerns about EMS medically assessing an individual to determine whether or not police should transport or EMS should transport,” she said. “If somebody is making statements that they are going to die by suicide or if they are having suicidal ideations and deny taking any kind of pills, when in fact they did, and potentially negated telling that to any personnel, that places everybody at risk because they're not going to exhibit any kind of medical symptoms right away.”


She agreed that the entire EMS and healthcare systems are stressed due to COVID and workforce shortages but warned against the marginalization of the mentally ill.

“… What the system and the advocates have worked really hard about is to not stigmatize and to reduce stigmatization of individuals who are mentally ill,” she offered. “So, if police protocol is to handcuff somebody in a mental health crisis because they're being transported on a 941 and placed them in the back of a police car, that's criminalizing -- that is stigmatizing … and could have detrimental effects. It could possibly force that person to not want to reach out for help in the future; it could be very traumatizing …”

Sheron advised that the county transitioned from police vehicles to ambulances years ago “because of the more humane way to transport somebody that's in crisis.”

“To put somebody in the back of a patrol car behind a cage and in very limited space, I think is not the proper place for somebody who's in mental health crisis -- plain and simple,” he said. “Now, when we have an individual that is violent and we believe that they may become violent in the ambulance, we’ll send somebody along with the ambulance, either following the vehicle or inside the rig itself.”

Other key points brought up during the discussion are as follows:

  • Yaeger and Landers agreed that the situation is “not a black and white thing,” with the former acknowledging that the EMS crisis now has taken precedence over the county’s efforts to fix staffing and other issues related to emergency response in the case of fire or motor vehicle accidents.

In response to a question from Legislator Rochelle Stein about the county’s contract with Municipal Resources Inc., a consulting firm based in Plymouth, N.H., Yaeger said MRI's mandate will be expanded from finding solutions to the widening gaps in fire department coverage to also include confronting the EMS dilemma.

  • Legislator Gary Maha asked what happens if a call for a mental health transport comes in and no ambulances are available?

Yaeger responded by saying that request would be put on hold. “It’s either that or we’re going to try to get a volunteer ambulance to cover that call. They may cover it, or they may not, but it's going to end up waiting.”

  • Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said it is incumbent upon the county “to change how we fundamentally are doing things” by removing elements of criminalization in mental health cases.

“(To place) someone ... in a cop car I just think escalates things and I worry about the liability on the county … if we were to do that,” she said.

She then asked if the county had a contract with Mercy EMS for a certain level of service, to which Landers answered that there is no formal agreement on staffing levels although the county does provide funding to the operation.

  • Responding to questions from Legislator Christian Yunker, Landers said there are approximately 500 calls for mental health crisis intervention in Genesee County annually, although many of them end up as family member transports. The plan being considered is to shift up to half from ambulance to law enforcement transport to the three destination hospitals referred to previously in this report.
  • Landers said the discussion will continue, and he looks to include Dan Ireland, president of United Memorial Medical Center, as legislators inquired about the possibility of the Batavia hospital becoming certified to accept individuals in the midst of mental health breakdowns.

“They're (Rochester Regional Health administrators) heavily invested in doing everything with the new campus (in Batavia), and obviously, they're doing great things there with the hospital expansion,” Landers said. “So, I would hope that this could be something down the road that we have in our own community, I think there's a need there based on what we're hearing about (the numbers) being transported out of our community.”

  • Battaglia, upon hearing that paramedics are not provided with the training to properly handle mental health cases, said she would be willing to provide it.

“Law enforcement knows I've done some trainings for law enforcement. I was just at Le Roy Police a couple months ago, providing mental health training,” she said. “So, if you know that it’s not provided when they’re being trained and going to school, then that is definitely something that I can I can assist with.”

September 7, 2021 - 10:26am

oif.jpgGenesee County Mental Health, in observance of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, is inviting community members and healthcare providers to participate in a Rural Listening Tour on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 to learn more about the rural environment factors that may contribute to mental health concerns and the increased risk of suicide.

Coordinated by the University of Albany’s School of Public Health,    the listening tours will consist of two 90-minute forums in four rural New York counties. One forum will include community members at-large (Sept. 30) and the other will consist of community providers/stakeholders (Oct. 1).

“Each county setting has its own unique aspects and cultural norms that can influence people’s mental wellness,” said Lynda Battaglia, Genesee’s director of Mental Health & Community Services. “We expect that our participation in these Listening Tour forums will generate valuable information that will enable us to better serve our residents.”

Battaglia advised that the purpose of the program is to gain insight on the following questions:

  • What are the main factors that contribute to increased risk of suicide in rural New York? What factors contribute to positive mental health and wellbeing?
  • How do community members seek help for behavioral health concerns, and what factors influence these help-seeking preferences?
  • How can rural communities – individually and as a whole – improve availability, awareness, access, and utilization of mental health services and resources?

At the conclusion of the project, each county will receive a presentation (in-person or virtual) and written summary of the results and recommendations coming out of their forums, Battaglia said.

Furthermore, information gained across all eight forums conducted in the four counties will also be aggregated to develop an overall set of recommendations to present to the Rural Suicide Prevention Workgroup and to the New York State Suicide Prevention Council.

“Ultimately, the listening tour protocol will be refined and disseminated statewide so that all counties will have the tools to conduct their own forums in the future,” she added.

The forums, which will be confidential in a Virtual private group setting, are scheduled as follows:

Sept. 30, 4:30 p.m., for Genesee County residents (no other requirements are necessary).

Oct. 1, 1 p.m., for community providers/stakeholders (requirements are that participants must be service providers/stakeholders who provide services to Genesee County. This could include school personal, law enforcement, emergency management services, religious establishments, etc.).

Those interested in participating are asked to contact Brenda Reeves at 585-344-1421, ext. 6681, or at [email protected]. The deadline to respond is Sept. 27. A Zoom link will be provided upon registration.

June 28, 2021 - 3:19pm

Genesee County’s director of mental health and community services apparently swung for the fences and hit a home run last week when she learned that the New York State Office of Mental Health approved the county’s application to participate in the Mobile Access Program with three law enforcement agencies.

The Mobile Access Program (MAP) is a pilot initiative that connects residents in distress with mental health clinicians utilizing iPads (via Zoom for Healthcare, a secure teleconferencing software program) when law enforcement officers request assistance.

Mental health staff then will conduct an evaluation remotely to help plan for an appropriate disposition.

“They (NYSOMH officials) really wanted one law enforcement agency but we kind of took a gamble and chose three. We asked for a lot,” said Lynda Battaglia, who heads up the county’s mental health department.

The three police departments that have agreed to partner with Genesee County are the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, City of Batavia Police and Village of Le Roy Police.

Battaglia said heads of the three law enforcement agencies watched a webinar about the program and all expressed an interest in participating.

“I asked each police department to provide information specific to their line of work – how many devices they would need for each shift; bandwidth, accessibility in different areas; how many officers would need iPads and the number of calls related to mental health issues they receive,” Battaglia offered.

She then took that data and coupled it with mental health information and sent the application to the NYSOMH. Not only was Genesee County approved, but requests from all other counties as well.

“We received notice that since there was such a great response … they were able to accommodate all the applicants,” she noted.

Calling it a “telehealth program,” Battaglia said the state will give iPads to all three police departments and to the mental health clinic. The state also will provide training and support services.

She said that the objective is to increase accessibility to those having mental health issues and cut down the time it takes to deliver essential mental health consultations.

“Let’s say police receive a call to go out and talk with somebody – and it’s a mental health call,” she said. “One of the goals is to decrease unnecessary transport to the hospital, under Mental Health Law 9.41.”

Mental Health Law Section 9.41 give powers to peace officers and police officers to admit individuals in emergency situations for immediate observation, care, and treatment.

Battaglia explained that if an officer is interacting with someone who doesn’t need to be transported to a hospital (or to jail), they will ask that person if they wish to have a telehealth emergency visit with the mental health person on call.

“There will be arrangements made to have the officer connect with his or her iPad with our on-call person with their iPad, and the mental health person will conduct a telehealth session with that individual in crisis,” she said.

She did acknowledge that the program won’t work in all cases, specifically if someone is under the influence of alcohol or substances – “for clinical reasons you won’t get an accurate assessment,” she said – or if a person is extremely agitated or at very high risk.

“We’re hoping to have it where the mental health professionals make that determination (which is allowed under MHL Section 9.45 -- emergency admissions for immediate observation, care, and treatment under the authority of directors of community services or authorized designees).

Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron reported that mental health calls continue to increase.

“I would say we average at least one a day – and some days, more than others,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to get the proper treatment to these individuals in a timely fashion, and reduce the amount of police involvement in the process.”

Sheron said law enforcement is “working hand-in-hand with mental health to more directly address the needs of people who have mental health crises.”

“This will expedite that. It may not be appropriate for all cases, but I think for the majority of them, it will be very beneficial. The last thing we want to do is having law enforcement take some kind of criminal action against somebody when they really need the services of mental health professionals.”

Battaglia said she expects it to take a few months for state mental health officials to provide training and to implement the program. She said is hoping that this turns out to be a win-win situation for all.

“We have a crisis plan in place (contracting with SpectrumHealth for a mobile response team), and I think that it is a plan that has been OK. But, with this opportunity and moving into the future, we can make the crisis plan a little more connected,” she said.

“It will definitely prove how law enforcement and mental health officials can work together. It will build relationships. It will help the people in the community.”

June 1, 2021 - 7:09pm

After weathering the storm known as the COVID-19 pandemic, the director of Mental Health & Community Services for Genesee County is placing a high priority on ending the locum method of providing psychiatric services to those in need.

Lynda Battaglia, speaking at today’s Genesee County Legislature Human Services Committee at the Old County Courthouse, said that in a perfect world, the county would have its own psychiatrist on the payroll.

“Ultimately, having a full-time psychiatry position instead of a locum (would be best),” Battaglia said. “We would have to find the money.”

A locum is defined as someone who fulfills the duties of another when absent or, as in the case of Genesee County Mental Health, when the agency is short-staffed.

Battaglia, during her yearly department review, reported that she can see both sides of an argument for and against a full-time psychiatrist, but finds more benefits than drawbacks.

“One benefit is continuum of care,” she said, noting that having the same doctor on site provides for consistent and continual treatment. “Whether it’s telehealth (remote), in person or a combination, having the same doctor five days a week (makes a difference).”

Her office, which consists of 65 employees, including 40 clinical staff, has used locum services to assist with psychiatric care.

She said the “pros” are working with an agency “that has been essential in making sure we are satisfied with our services” while the “cons” include the fact that sometimes the doctor is not a good fit, which forces a change and makes it more difficult for clients.

“We are on our third locum now,” she said. “Ideally, we should hire a full-time psychiatrist as a county employee to allow for stability within the agency and for the clients. This will be a goal for the upcoming year.”

When asked if other nearby counties had a full-time psychiatrist, she said some do and some mirror Genesee’s approach. She wasn’t sure about the annual salary, but speculated that it would exceed $100,000 with benefits.

Battaglia said the issue has been brought up to the Mental Health Community Services Board but has yet to be formally presented.

On other fronts, Battaglia reported the following:

  • Clinical caseloads have reached 90 to 100 per therapist, an all-time high, but this is consistent with other counties in the state,” she said. Employees monitor their clients’ needs on a regular basis and close out cases as appropriate. “We are meeting the demand; however, this kind of pace leads to burnout,” she said. As of the end of March, the department was serving more than 1,700 clients – with a recent increase of almost 100 per month.
  • Genesee County Mental Health is planning to open satellite offices at Oakfield-Alabama and Le Roy schools, bringing the total of schools to four and “more are in the works,” she said.
  • The department will continue its collaboration with all Genesee County police agencies, with goals of creating a law enforcement mental health referral system, to provide additional training and to apply for a mobile access program (utilizing an iPad for mental health crisis response with police on site).
  • For 2021, the department has reached 40 percent of its budgeted goal of 18,250 units of service, about 7 percent more than anticipated at this time of the year. She also reported that the state has restored $70,859 in funding to the department that originally was withheld in 2020 due to projections stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Calling the past year as one of “unchartered waters which created feelings of anxiety, fear and worry,” she thanked her staff for pushing through to deliver services without any stoppage. “We were not immune to the anxiety and fears that the pandemic produced, but knowing the essential service we provided, we became resilient, creative and embraced the telehealth wave which kept us connected,” she said. She singled out Lynnell Schreiber, recently hired as an administrative officer, for helping to keep the department on track.
May 13, 2021 - 9:33am


Lynda Battaglia, director of Mental Health & Community Services for Genesee County, packed a powerful punch into a two-minute speech Wednesday as she accepted a proclamation from the Genesee County Legislature designating May as National Mental Health Awareness Month.

Her words about mental health and its far-reaching effects on so many people are as follows:

“(I’ve been) thinking about what we’ve gone through the last 15 or 16 months, the global pandemic that has impacted every single one of us and political and social eruptions that have occurred in our communities from what we’ve seen on TV.

“I think it’s fair to say that these events have taken a toll on our people and have left an imprint on many. Now, as a result, I think it’s fair to say that maybe people will have a better understanding of mental health and what mental health awareness is -- because it is at the forefront of our world today.

“Mental health, overall, impacts every single part of you as a person. It impacts you physically, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually; everything is connected. It affects the way you make decisions, your quality of life and the way you live. Mental health awareness is being cognizant of one’s overall health because it is all connected. It’s taking care of every part of you as a person.

“It’s also knowing that it is OK to not be OK, and that it’s OK to ask for help and to reach out for help. It’s knowing you’re not alone because at some point in time, all of us have felt what you have felt.

“We have an obligation and a duty as a county to stop the stigma associated with reaching out for help. And instead of one feeling shame for reaching out for help, they should be receiving praise for taking that first step.

“The more awareness and education that we can provide, the healthier our communities become, the healthier our residents become and the healthier our children become. I’d like to thank the workforce of all the community providers in the county who continue to provide this essential service during this last year and a half.”

Battaglia’s words prompted heartfelt applause from legislators and those in the audience at the Old County Courthouse. Afterward, she and Thomas Christensen, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties, posed for a photo (at top) with legislators Gordon Dibble, left, and Gregg Torrey, right.

Dibble, a member of the mental health community services board, said, “We’re proud of the work they do and the people who work there (at Genesee County Mental Health Services).”

The proclamation reads, in part, “the GCMHS is committed to ensuring that people living with mental health conditions are treated with compassion, respect and understanding, and is working to ensure citizens have access to affordable, quality, evidence-based mental health care.”

For more information about GCMHS, go to Welcome to County of Genesee.

August 26, 2020 - 8:17pm


The Genesee County Legislature today sent a timely and vital message of “hope and healing” as it issued a proclamation in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week (Sept. 6-12), World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10) and National Recovery Month (September).

Legislator Gary Maha, reading from the decree that also shined a light on mental health awareness, said that “in these challenging times, messages of hope and healing are needed more than ever” as representatives of the County Mental Health Department, Genesee Justice and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse looked on at the Old County Courthouse.

“Where millions of people around the world join their voices to share messages of hope and healing … these observances are united to raising awareness that prevention is possible, treatment is effective and people do recover … in these challenging times messages of hope and healing are more needed than ever,” Maha read.

The proclamation went on to state that county residents have “access to high-quality prevention support, rehabilitation and treatment services that lead to recovery and a healthy lifestyle … and that every day in Genesee County, people begin treatment at behavioral health services and community supports to begin the road to wellness and recovery.”

Maha read that that the “benefits of preventing and overcoming mental health challenges, suicide attempts and loss, and substance abuse are significant and valuable to individuals, families and our community at large … (and) it is essential that we educate residents about suicide, mental health and substance abuse and the ways they affect all the people in the community.”

Lynda Battaglia, director of mental health and community services at the Genesee County Mental Health Department, said it was “wonderful” that the legislature was acknowledging these issues and spoke of the “incredible collaboration” across agencies – calling it “a shared mission” to provide help and hope.

She said that every day, on average, 132 people die by suicide.

“Every number is a person … a loved one,” she said.

Battaglia encouraged those contemplating suicide or having serious mental health or substance use issues to reach out because they “are not alone.”

“There are people who want to help you and care for you,” she said. “We are your lifeline.”

Photo, from left, Shannon Ford, GCASA services director of Communications, Development and Prevention; Sue Gagne, Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition coordinator and GCASA recovery center coordinator; Maha; Catherine Uhly, director of Genesee Justice; Legislator Gordon Dibble; Battaglia. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

July 9, 2020 - 3:58pm

Genesee County officials today learned that its mental health department will be getting 20 percent less in state aid this year.

The cut equates to a loss of $132,710 in revenue for mental health clinical services in the county, said Assistant County Manager Matt Landers.

“We’ve been told all along that there would be cuts of 20 to 50 percent,” Landers said. “We’ve been bracing for that.”

The county’s budget for the mental health department for 2020-21 is $5.6 million, he said, with state aid just one part of the revenue stream.

New York State took a bigger chunk – a 31-percent cut – out of its annual support to the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, action that will have a direct impact upon services provided by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

“Just in the third quarter alone, this is a $160,000 loss in state aid, with $134,000 of that for Genesee County,” GCASA Executive Director John Bennett said. “Not only will this affect services, but it could very well result in potential layoffs.”

Bennett mentioned that the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program loan will help soften the blow somewhat.

There has been no word on cuts to the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (formerly Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities).

In another development, Landers said the county has called back 19 of the 48 employees who were furloughed, including a Department of Motor Vehicles worker needed to help process a heavy load of work since the office reopened.

The furlough program ends on July 31, said Landers, adding that the county’s strategic hiring freeze continues.

June 2, 2020 - 4:01pm

Moved to the forefront by COVID-19, telehealth is the wave of the future for Genesee County Mental Health & Community Services, the agency’s director said on Monday.

Speaking at the County Legislature’s Human Services Committee Zoom videoconferencing meeting, Lynda Battaglia said her employees “love the fact that we can offer telehealth” as she presented a departmental review.

Legislators commended Battaglia, who was hired about eight months ago, for turning around a department that had been in disarray.

“Lynda came in at a very difficult time and has done a wonderful job,” Legislator Gordon Dibble said. “I know I speak on behalf of the board (when I say) that she’s done a great job under very difficult circumstances.”

Battaglia acknowledged that the agency has faced some turmoil over the past year, but pointed out that the “level of service that has been provided to the clients never wavered. (That) really speaks to the quality of professionals that we have in the agency.”

She was hired after her predecessor, Ellery Reaves, departed and was replaced on an interim basis by Mark O’Brien, the former Orleans County Mental Health director who since has moved on to become commissioner of mental health in Erie County.

Before taking the Genesee County position, Battaglia served as the forensic unit chief at Attica Correctional Facility and as assistant outpatient coordinator for New York’s Western Region.

In her PowerPoint presentation, Battaglia outlined a serious of mistakes and oversights that beset the department, calling the last year “a roller coaster for GC Mental Health.”

She was quick to mention that services have continued without interruption, even in the face of the coronavirus, and has set the department on a progressive course that includes telehealth, implementation of enhanced safety measures and cross-training of billing clerks.

“Agencies are always going to have a couple outliers that question things, but for the most part the group of people at Mental Health wants to progress with changes, they’re excited for the changes (and) they love the fact that we can offer telehealth,” she stated. “We have some big plans moving forward.”

Battaglia outlined that telehealth was “the only potential solution” after the agency lost its on-site psychiatrist, leaving hundreds of clients needing a provider and increasing the wait time to see a doctor to nearly a year.

In its broadest definition, telehealth allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions.

On March 5, the state Office of Mental Health approved the county’s application to use telehealth for psychiatric services. As a result, the wait time has been reduced significantly, she said, and the department has been able to add to its client base by providing another method of treatment.

Battaglia said that the OMH office is approving expanded telehealth services for all clinical staff and mentioned that Genesee County is applying for grants to sustain these services.

On the subject of safety, she said Mental Health has “come up to speed where DSS (Department of Social Services) was in regards to workplace safety.”

She said the department contracted with a company called Securemedy to institute numerous facility, group and personal safety measures, such as conducting rounds daily, having an on-site supervisor to intervene with immediate issues, improving communication and security checks, and making sure all posts are guarded.

The agency has seen a 13-percent increase in the average of monthly services for billing over the first four months of 2020, Battaglia said, attributing that to a streamlined billing process along with a “high demand” for services at this point in time.

“One of our missions is to decrease the cost to our county, and one way to do that is by getting the billing folks together and having them cross-train now that we have our new electronic medical records going live on July 1,” she explained. “It’s really going to mainstream how we conduct billing … We’re going with a clearing house, which is going to be great.”


Correction: Mark O'Brien left his position with Orleans County Mental Health to become the commissioner of mental health in Erie County. Information provided to The Batavian indicated that he had retired.

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