As society changes, so do the needs of local law enforcement. Below is a press release about our desire to hire a social worker for our Police Department.
Recognizing the importance of providing comprehensive and compassionate services to the community, Town Council President Rick Bella and Police Chief Kosta Nuses are spearheading efforts to secure funding to add a social worker position at the Merrillville Police Department.
Bella has started exploring various funding options, including grants, partnerships, and community-based initiatives. He and other Town Council members will work with the Merrillville Police Commission, law enforcement agencies, and local stakeholders to secure the necessary resources to fund the addition of a social worker at the Police Department.
“Our priority is to ensure the well-being and safety of every resident in Merrillville,” Bella said. “In an ever-changing landscape of social challenges, it’s crucial that we equip our Police Department with the tools and resources necessary to address these issues effectively and compassionately.”
In the coming months, Bella, Nuses, Interim Town Manager Michael Griffin, and the Town’s financial advisor Cender & Dalton will be engaging in discussions with community members, advocacy groups, and funding organizations to further develop this initiative and create a comprehensive plan to implement a social worker position within the Police Department.
“Having a social worker on our team will allow us to better serve our community, especially during situations involving mental health crises, substance abuse, and homelessness,” Nuses said. “Their expertise in these areas will complement the work of our dedicated officers,” Nuses said other local law enforcement agencies have social workers on their staff, and they’re having positive impacts in those communities. The Town of Griffith is among them.
“Since the incorporation of a social work program within the Griffith Police Department in 2018, we have witnessed several positive outcomes,” Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance said. “This initiative has enabled us to approach law enforcement with a more comprehensive perspective, emphasizing community well-being and mental health.”
Hiring social workers in Griffith has produced a variety of benefits such as enhanced community relations and improved crisis response.
“Our social workers, in conjunction with our officers, have played a vital role in de-escalating situations involving individuals in crisis, thereby reducing the potential for violence or harm,” Mance said. “They have also assisted in connecting individuals with appropriate mental health resources and various social services.”
He said the collaboration between law enforcement and social workers has allowed for a more efficient use of the department’s resources. It’s also decreased recidivism rates in Griffith. “By addressing the root causes of certain behaviors, our social workers have contributed to a reduction in repeat offenses among certain individuals,” Mance said. “This not only benefits the individuals involved but also lowers the burden on our officers as well as the overall criminal justice system.”
He added that the success of the social work initiative is a result of training and strong cooperation between the Griffith Police Department’s administration, officers, and social workers.
Bella said the proven success social workers have in other communities adds to the importance of creating the position at the Merrillville Police Department.
“As communities across the country grapple with complex social and mental health issues, the addition of a social worker to the police force has become increasingly vital,” Bella said.