Social Workers Dispatched to Assist Naperville Police with Crisis Intervention

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Increasing Need for Naperville Police Department’s Crisis Intervention

As mental health crisis have become a significant portion of the calls coming into the Naperville Police Department, officers say the department is taking additional steps to help these people in times of need.

“We respond to around 1,000 mental health calls per year,” said the department’s Chief Jason Arres.  “It’s actually one of our highest calls for service on a daily basis.”

While they’ve had in-house social workers for years, this is the first year now that the NPD is dispatching these clinicians out with officers into the field to assist with crisis intervention.  Together, the CIT-trained officer and licensed clinician respond to incidents involving the following:

  • Individuals who are known to have mental health concerns or thought to be in a mental health crisis
  • Domestic violence issues
  • Elderly concerns
  • Substance use
  • Other citizens who may be in crisis and may benefit from this program

Benefits of Dispatching Clinical Social Workers

“With the clinician there on scene, they can immediately start providing that support, immediately start finding resources for them,” said Officer Kevin Fasana. “What it also does that is very important is that it sends the message that a social worker and counselor on the exact same page as that officer with the end goal of helping that person in crisis.”

While some police officers are trained to be on the Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, there’s only so much they can do.  That’s where the mobile clinicians come in.

“Because I’m not a police officer, I have more freedom to follow-up with those families and individuals after the fact,” said Police Social Worker  Jamie Horner.  “It’s not their role to follow-up and provide support.  So I am able to say, ‘I was the social worker that came to your house.  How are you doing today and how can we make things better for you tomorrow?'”

“There are many individuals out there with a mental health crisis where the uniform can actually antagonize the situation or make it more difficult for us to make a connection with them,” added Arres.

Piloting the Program

Known as the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team, or Mobile CIT, this program started as a pilot in 2021, with clinicians joining school resources officers in the summer while school was out.

“It was hugely successful,” said Horner.  “We were able to respond to a lot of different needs, help a lot of different people.”

The Naperville Police Department expanded mobile CIT to their patrol unit and has made it an official full-time program as of this year.  Arres commends the bravery of these clinicians.

“Someone in crisis can go from 0 to 100 very quickly,” said Arres.  It may start out as a non-violent call and go violent very quickly so I commend them for their willingness to put themselves out there for those residents in this community to help them or a family member.”

Naperville Police Chief’s Additional Measures

The chief is also now requiring every single officer in the department achieve 40 hours of crisis intervention training.

“I’m not naïve to think that people have not had bad experiences with officers.  Not only our department but department across the country are recognizing that we can do more on these calls,” said Fasana.  “We can be more human because everybody’s been through crisis and want to make sure we can relate to these people and help to the best of our ability.”

Getting that training along with having a licensed clinician by their side when necessary are both measures officers across the department hope will lead to a better, safer community as a whole.