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Monroe County official resigns over Prude case

A county mental health official had passed Daniel Prude's psychiatric information to police

Steve Orr Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
The Monroe County Office Building in Rochester.

A Monroe County mental-health official has resigned amid questions about an email in which she passed information about Daniel Prude’s psychiatric treatment to Rochester police.

Kimberly Butler, chief of clinical and forensic services at the county Office of Mental Health, resigned Wednesday, county spokesman Steven Barz said Thursday morning. Butler also supervised the county's Forensic Intervention Team that responds with police to care for people undergoing mental-health crises.

Butler becomes at least the 16th local-government official to be fired or to retire, resign their posts or be suspended in the wake of the uproar of the Prude case. Thirteen others worked for RPD and two at City Hall.

Butler's resignation came as county officials began reviewing her communications with local police, with whom she interacted frequently.

The review was sparked by release of an unusual email containing privileged information about Prude's psychiatric care that Butler sent to a Rochester police sergeant. The email was included in a 325-page cache of documents about the Prude case that was released last week by Rochester city officials.

Butler sent the email in the pre-dawn hours of March 24. Prude had arrived at the hospital 24 hours earlier, near death after having been physically restrained and suffocated by city police officers during a mental-health detention.

He was declared brain dead and removed from life support on March 30.

The privileged information was contained in two paragraphs that had been written by a clinical leader at Strong and sent to Butler, URMC spokesman Chip Partner said in response to an inquiry from the Democrat and Chronicle. He did not name the employee.

The email read began with Butler writing "I got this info from Strong on Daniel Prude..." She then pasted the contents of the message she had received from the Strong clinician.

It read: "I reviewed the chart. Pt (patient) arrived in ED at 19:30. Was evaluated and observed in ED due to suspected intoxication, with no other acute findings and an improving course until 21:31, when he was called up to CPEP. He was triaged and interviewed by clinical evaluator and attending (physician), collateral information obtained from brother. Pt had an entirely normal mental status exam, showed no evidence of psychosis, mania or intoxication at that time, had no SI/HI, and requested discharge. Discharged at 22:51."

(Note: CPEP stands for Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, which is the specialized psychiatric emergency department. SI/HI stands for suicidal and homicidal ideation, or thoughts.)

The email from the Strong official concluded: "I did not find any evidence of a deficient, incomplete or negligent evaluation. Unfortunately, it appears that patient went back out and used again, probably PCP, leading to excited delirium and subsequent cardiac arrest."

Why Butler would have sent such an email at 4:11 a.m. to the RPD sergeant, Stephen Boily, is unclear. Boily leads the police department's Emotionally Disturbed Persons  Response Team, according to his LinkedIn page.

Butler and other employees of the county mental-health office are authorized by law to collect information on the care given to people with mental-health issues, and do so routinely, according to the URMC's Partner and to county spokesman Barz.

Barz said mental health workers may share such information with law enforcement if there is an imminent risk the person in question poses to himself or others.

In Prude's case, he posed no risk to anyone on March 24. He was in Strong's intensive care unit with irreversible brain damage caused by the officer's forceful restraint the day before.

Barz did not say whether the county considered Butler's email to be inappropriate.

But he did say the county was reviewing all communications between Butler and police officials.

Sonya Zoghlin, a Rochester lawyer who has worked with Butler, said her services will be missed.

"She was a tireless advocate for our mentally ill clients," said Zoghlin, who was a Monroe County assistant public defender for nine years and interacted with Butler numerous times while in that job.

"You would find many local lawyers who have nothing but praise for her advocacy," she said, adding that she knew nothing about Butler's involvement with Prude's case.

Meanwhile, the four-member Black and Asian Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature reiterated an earlier for an investigation of county officials' awareness of the Prude case before it was made public on Sept. 2.

Legislature Minority Leader Vince Felder said Thursday that Butler's email and subsequent resignation "leads one to ask if there were any County officials involved in helping to cover-up the cause of Mr. Prude’s death" and supports the caucus's call for an investigation.

Kimberly Butler is seen in a screengrab from a May 2020 online presentation.