Over and over again, we have seen evidence that police departments are recognizing the value of working with social workers when dealing with certain calls. These include mental health initiatives. Frank Schultz, in GazetteXtra, explains how police officers must often do the work of social workers anyway… and are therefore seeing the need to involve professional social workers on the job. About 25 percent of police calls nationwide involve some form of mental illness. Fully a quarter of all police shootings involve suspects with mental illness, too. This has grave consequences: One estimate claims the mentally ill are 16 percent more likely to be shot by responding officers.
Schultz also highlights the drain on emergency room resources posed by mental-health emergencies, which have been on the rise. The time in the ER is part of a longer process, he writes, of getting the right kind of treatment to the person in crisis. “After a medical evaluation and possibly treatment at the local hospital comes a transfer to a hospital with a psych unit that will take the patient, most often outside the county, which takes officers anywhere from a few hours to more than a day,” he writes, detailing a program in which police officers collaborate with social workers to get needed help to those with mental health issues.