Last month, Northfield Police Chief Mark Elliott spoke about the benefits of a new county program that has embedded social workers, or community-based coordinators, with the county law enforcement agencies to assist on calls involving a person dealing with a mental health crisis or a chemical health emergency.
Now Rice County itself is touting the program as a transformative solution to a problem that has plagued law enforcement for decades.
The county issued a statement regarding the program with some startling statistics. It said that current figures are not readily available, but a 2006 Bureau of Justice report found that nearly 1.3 million people with mental health conditions were incarcerated in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four people with serious mental illness has been arrested at some point in their lifetime, leading to more than 2 million bookings each year.
The Community-Based Coordinator program is led by Behavioral Health Services Unit Supervisor Dante Hummel-Langerfeld, a Rice County native and licensed social worker with years of experience as a chemical dependency counselor. Three coordinators have been brought in by the county, one each to work with the Faribault Police Department, The Northfield Police Department and the Rice County Sheriff’s Department
Among the team’s goals is to get residents who are known to law enforcement and dealing with mental and/or chemical health issues the help they need before their behaviors escalate and become criminal. It’s not uncommon for police to encounter arrestees several times before they’re charged criminally. Those encounters, according to Hummel-Langerfeld, are opportunities for coordinators to reach out and help those in crisis access needed services and assistance, reducing the likelihood they’ll resort to illegal behavior. Coordinators will also follow up with clients, something law enforcement rarely has time to do.
Hummel-Langerfeld said she is impressed that Rice County chose to institute the program. Long term, she said, she expects the results to be improved quality of life for Rice County residents and decreased strain on law enforcement.
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