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Police departmen brings on social worker as mental health calls rise

Associated Press

ROCHESTER, Minn. – A Minnesota police department has hired a social worker to help de-escalate situations as mental health calls rise.

Social worker Megan Schueller has been helping Rochester police handle mental health issues through the department’s pilot program that launched last year, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Schueller gives officers information at the scene or on the phone about solutions to mental health crisis that doesn’t involve jail or a hospital. She’s also able to give officers more information about a caller than law enforcement would normally receive.

During one recent call, Schueller told officers that a woman threatening to kill herself was part of a dialectical behavioral therapy group that treats borderline personality disorder. She was able to create a rapport with the caller and quickly gained her trust by mentioning the names of caseworkers the woman had worked with before.

Gaining the woman’s trust would’ve likely taken officers longer, said Officer Vedran Tomic.

“There are so many hurdles that we have to jump through that (Schueller) just solved in 15 seconds,” Tomic said.

During the pilot program’s four-month run, 70 percent of people who called authorities to report a mental health crisis were able to remain home with support from other services. Schueller’s work has also helped reduce calls from people who routinely call the department for help.

The department made Schueller’s position full-time after seeing her impact.

State Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, has also noticed the impact of the new position. He’s sponsoring a bill to help fund the creation of a crisis center that would be staffed by social workers and other mental health professionals.

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