Maria Cristalli, Hillside’s President and Chief Executive Officer, today shared an open letter with employees concerning a January 29 incident in the City of Rochester. Her message is shared below.

Dear Hillside Colleagues,

Last Friday afternoon, a 9-year-old Rochester child was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by police during a response to a nonviolent mental health call. As a member of the Hillside family and as a human being, I am deeply troubled by this heartbreaking incident.

No child should ever be treated this way. Children in distress deserve compassion, support and empathy. This incident is another painful example of the need for sweeping changes in behavioral health services. Hillside has a responsibility to be part of a sincere and action-oriented community conversation on reform.

Additionally, the systemic racism tied to this incident can’t be overlooked. We all understand the linkages between race and a lack of access to vital mental health services. Individually and as an organization, we must stand against all forms of racism and oppression, and support like-minded efforts to do the same.

Hillside leaders have reached out to the newly formed Person in Crisis team at the City of Rochester to offer our support and assistance in working with children experiencing behavioral health challenges. We will also connect with the facilitators of Crisis Intervention Team training to offer assistance on crisis prevention/de-escalation strategies for children.

Complex multigenerational problems can’t be solved overnight, but our work shows us every day that change can begin with a single act. The children and families of the communities we serve—and of all communities—deserve our best efforts.

Maria Cristalli
President and CEO

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