Police, Social Worker Join Forces for Mental-Health Calls

GazetteXtra

By Frank Schultz

Police officers are being asked more and more to act as social workers.

Now, Janesville officers are getting help from a real social worker in dealing with people having mental-health crises.

“I wish we had enough money to do it at every police department,” said Lt. Mike Blaser, the department’s lead crisis intervention officer.

“We’re not social workers. We’re not psychotherapists. We have a lot of experience (and training), but having someone who has gone to school for this and has expertise in that arena is very helpful,” Blaser said.

A social worker who responds to emergencies with officers is part of a pilot project that officials hope they can expand. It also highlights a serious problem in American policing.

About 25 percent of police calls nationwide involve mental illness, said Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore, and about 25 percent of police shootings are of people with mental illness.

And it’s estimated that people who suffer from mental illness are 16 percent more likely to be shot by police.

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