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Police, social worker team up to help mentally ill

Svitlana Anishchenko

Police in Burbank, Calif., responded to the call of a 70-something man who was suicidal.

Instead of immediately arresting the man police officer Kristiana Sanchez brought clinical social worker Svitlana Anishchenko, MSW, with her, this article in the Burbank Leader said.

Anishchenko sat down with the man and asked how he was feeling. The man told her voices were telling him to shoot or drown himself, but not hurt anyone.

The man’s wife and daughter asked that he not be handcuffed as he was led out and police complied. Anishchenko then got busy on the phone to find him the right hospital.

Sanchez and Anishchenko are part of  the Burbank Police Department’s new Mental Health Evaluation Team, which was designed to tackle the rising number of mental illness-related police reports. Burbank police said they receive a call related to mental illness about 1.5 times a day.

Instead of incarcerating these people, police and social workers work together to find them proper mental healthcare services.

“It’s a tremendous benefit to the community and leads to efficiencies on our part — we’re not going to be needlessly running out to repeat calls because we can take care of it in a permanent or semi-permanent fashion,” interim Burbank police Chief Scott LaChasse said. “It’s a cost savings to us, and the community benefits.”

Cheers to the Burbank Leader for an article that showing the services social workers provide in the areas of mental health and law enforcement.

Social workers help clients overcome depression, anxiety, stress and other mental problems. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Mind and Spirit website by clicking here.

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  1. Bravo. Lets hear more examples of such innovative social work. Such programs are increasingly being established around the country. But the process is slow. The Austin (Texas) Police Department developed a “Victim Services Crisis Team” in the early 80s. (30 years ago!) From this team made up of 3 full-time paid social workers working primarily days and a group of trained volunteers they were able to put a 2 person team of social workers out on the road on the second shift (7:30PM- 3AM) 2 or 3 nights a week. The “Crisis team” had its own unmarked police car and was available to respond to incidents involving the “emotionally disturbed,” “victims of crimes,” (like DV & child abuse) uninjured passengers in car crashes, and helping with the care and support of witnesses at crime scenes.

    In Kansas City Missouri for the past several years, the city police are trained by social workers from a non-profit domestic violence program to conduct risk assessments in every incident of domestic violence they encounter. Those assessments are then shared with a shelter social worker actually assigned and housed in the police department headquarters for follow-up. I understand that this program is being modeled in many different jurisdictions now.

    In 1985 when the Austin Mental Health & MR Center established it’s first after hours “crisis assessment team,” social workers helped train a team of “mental health deputies” in the Travis County Sheriffs Office who would de-escalate situations “in the field” involving “psychiatric emergencies” and then transport the proposed patients to a central location to meet with a mental health social worker. The law enforcement officers and social workers worked very closely together to successfully reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and incarcerations.

  2. Given that these highly educated social workers (hopefully MSW level) will likely face dangerous situations no different from that faced by police officers (who do not have masters degrees), it is only fair that they receive comparable compensation.

  3. This is an excellent idea and a great way to reduce costs as a result of unnecessary hospital admissions. More programs like these need to be in place.

    Agreed that these social workers need to be paid commensurate with education, experience, and job risk. It’s only fair.

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