Legislator Barnhart Proposes Task Force for Youth and Family Support

Legislator Rachel Barnhart (D-21) will propose a Task Force for Youth and Family Support as a Matter of Importance to be considered by the legislature next month.

The task force would bring together multiple disciplines, including law enforcement, human services, RCSD, Pathways to Peace, Family Court and other services to identify youth in crisis and offer support services to them and their families. That support could include housing, mental health care, addiction programs and other services. The task force’s main goal is to identify gaps in existing programs and communication among agencies, and recommend a plan of action.

The task force proposal is in response to the alarming number of young people committing crimes, including stealing cars. While Legislator Barnhart plans to vote in favor of the $7.3 million proposal to add staffing and other resources to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, she does not believe the proposal goes far enough in crime prevention and tackling public safety in a holistic way. 

“These young people are telling us they are not okay through their actions. We need to do more to reach at-risk youth and their families to get them on a path to stability and success,” said Legislator Barnhart.

County Executive Adam Bello recently announced the Juvenile Enhanced Diversion Stabilization (JEDS) program. Though media reports indicate the program has been in operation for a month, the administration was unable to provide Legislator Barnhart with operating procedures, saying they’re still in draft form. JEDS is not investing additional resources or staff to help youth, and JEDS is limited to youth who have been arrested. Legislator Barnhart’s proposed task force would serve as an advisory committee to JEDS. The task force could identify an expanded pool of youth beyond JEDS and develop a plan to reach them. 

“This is not about micromanaging experts but allowing them to come up with a plan that fills any existing gaps. I encourage out-of-the-box innovative thinking to find youth in crisis and get them help before they cause more harm to themselves and others,” said Legislator Barnhart.

The task force would come up with a plan and budget for interventions. The group would not be able to force anyone to participate, and center the dignity and agency of families.

Legislator Barnhart is proposing an initial $50,000 investment in the task force.