New Dover, NH Police Social Worker to Offer Post-Crisis Help
Dover Police has a new member whose position you will not find in most other departments.
Kaitlin Jones is the department's new Police Social Worker, whose job is to connect those affected by a crisis situation with state and community agencies that can provide help. It was created to fill what was becoming an obvious need to police and fire departments in the community, according to police Capt. David A. Terlemezian.
Both departments respond to crisis' day or night and can handle the immediate needs of those impacted, but not the follow-up.
"It's not our responsibility to solve all the problems. It would be nice to be able to provide people with the tools so that maybe they can take that next step to solve their problems," Terlemezian told Seacoast Current.
Until now, both departments have handed out resource cards or tried to connect people with social service agencies, and had varying levels of success.
"You have to keep in mind that in the middle of a crisis or right after a crisis, people aren't always that receptive to help. Or phone numbers. Or people's names. Or things they now have to do," Terlemezian said. "The idea is you hire this person, she has access to police reports, and she can contact these people a day or two later and follow up when they'll be more receptive to an offer of help."
Jones, a former guidance counselor in the Rochester public schools, has no formal training in law enforcement and will not go on calls. She also won't be providing the actual counseling.
A "Crisis Concierge"
Part of Jones' job is to assess a situation and determine the best way to get someone the services they need. Right now, Jones is establishing the connections with the agencies and key people she'll need when the time comes, according to Terlemezian.
"What we're doing is leaning on her ability to do a needs assessment. Her experience that she comes with, knowing what's out there for help, knowing a little bit about a situation can help her try to assess people's needs and determine where people go to next," Terlemezian said.
Jones will also follow up with those she assists to make sure they received the needed help in a timely fashion and can intervene when necessary.
Terlemezian said the intent for the Police Social Worker is to work with people who have not needed help from police or fire before, and suddenly find themselves in a situation and don't know where to turn.
"When there's an out-of-control special needs teenager at the dinner table, sometimes police go to that call. And sometimes, that mother or father or both need some help. A police officer in uniform is the right person during the crisis, but probably not the best use of our resources to try and provide them with that next step- that bridge to services," Terlemezian said.
The position will evolve over time but one goal of the department is to have Jones train officers on making people aware of the assistance she can offer, especially as she becomes aware of common situations.
Jones is part of the department’s Community Response and Engagement Unit. Her position is funded by a Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) grant through the US Department of Justice.