Police departments are inundated with calls for people experiencing mental health crises. Police are the first and often the only responders to these situations because of inadequate or inaccessible community mental health resources, except in parts of DuPage County.
Social workers from Northeast DuPage Family and Youth Services (NEDFYS) have partnered with police departments in DuPage County for over three decades. Police depend on NEDFYS to provide their communities with services that fall outside of the customary police response and training. Our partnership has preserved police resources for crime response, reduced arrests of people with mental illness, and connected individuals and families with resources to effectively address their unique circumstances.
NEDFYS staff followed up on over 200 mental health related referrals from police officers in one community last year. NEDFYS linked these individuals and their families with counseling, outpatient services, inpatient hospitalization, and medication management after police had exhausted their resources. Our therapists provided over 3,500 counseling sessions in 2019, including 1,500 sessions in Spanish.
NEDFYS receives countless domestic violence referrals from police officers. NEDFYS began working with one department in late 2018 and their domestic violence calls went down 36% in one year. This is a result of a process initiated by the police chief that includes pairing our social worker with police officers.
Police throughout DuPage County call NEDFYS to help stabilize family conflict. In 2019, NEDFYS crisis workers responded to over 50 calls from police and successfully and safely reunified 99% of these youth with their parents/guardians after they ran away or were kicked out of their homes. Many of these youth would have otherwise been arrested or placed in shelters unnecessarily.
NEDFYS social workers want to work alongside police, not be the police. NEDFYS therapists know that they are a support, not a substitute for police response when it is requested or when community safety requires it. Our partnership with police can serve as a model for other communities who want to prevent crime, save lives, rebuild families, and restore hope.
To learn more about NEDFYS, visit www.nedfys.org.
Shannon Hartnett, MA
Northeast DuPage Family and Youth Services