Madison Youth & Family Services partners with police in pilot program

By By Ben Rayner • 05/03/2022 3:45 PM EST

A pilot program combining Madison Youth & Family Services (MYFS) with the Madison Police Department (MPD) aims to integrate resident social services to benefit those in crisis and assist officers responding to domestic calls . According to the program developers, the pilot is already collecting crucial data and providing information on how best to implement a future program.

According to MYFS Director Scott Cochran, the program will have a social worker stationed at the MPD to review police reports and then follow up to reach out to residents who may benefit from support and connect them with service resources. social in the region. The program is also a mechanism for collecting data, not specific to individuals, but information such as the time of day, duration and area of ​​the call, which will provide the information needed to better build an ongoing program.

In response to the recent State Police Accountability Act, the MPD and MYFS are partnering to integrate social work services into the police department, according to Cochran. This new law, among a number of other provisions, requires the State Department of Emergency Services and Public Safety and local police departments to assess the feasibility and potential impact of using social workers to respond to calls for help or accompany a police officer on certain calls. help

“As the MPD is already well trained in community policing, we believe the role of social work in Madison begins at the level of identifying and assisting people who have been involved in policing and who may also have unmet needs for social services,” says Cochran. “Because police officers often interact with people in times of crisis, they are often able to observe the conditions surrounding that crisis.”

Using these observations can help the city identify unmet needs.

“These needs can include behavioral health care, elder care, addiction treatment, food insecurity, housing and/or domestic violence and these issues often contribute directly or indirectly when a person is doing the object of a police intervention. Positioning social workers in partnership with police officers will more likely lead to identifying and meeting those needs,” Cochran said. “Chief [Jack] Drumm had contacted me last year, in light of the Police Accountability Act. The Chief is very involved at the state level on how we can be part of the movement to integrate social services with policing.

“At the state level, there are a number of different ideas about how this integration can happen,” Cochran continued. “Madison never had this service, so it was difficult for us to know exactly what it might look like, to integrate social work with the police. We wanted to pilot something this year with a social work student…and came up with this program.

Tiffany Torello, a graduate student in social work from Sacred Heart University, was chosen for this “external” position, rather than an intern. The voluntary position was essential to the actual operation of the program, according to Cochran, and Torello is already collecting important data that will be essential to inform the operation of a possible permanent program.

“There’s a lot of learning ‘in the moment’. We find that listening to everyone involved helps us create more ways to help them,” Torello said. “I already have agents who alert me, after an incident, to people or families who are potentially in crisis.”

“MYFS and MPD had to get creative to start a pilot project this year and to that end they created a unique short-term position that was approved by the city as an ‘externship’. The program uses a current [master of social work] student who will work as a pilot program social worker,” Cochran said. “The Social Worker will primarily be stationed at the MPD to observe, interact with and identify opportunities for social work outreach and then provide that outreach.

“A person does not need to be the subject of police action to be aware, but rather anyone noted as being part of a police incident,” Cochran continued. “At the end of the pilot program, the social worker will produce a report that summarizes their programmatic experience so that we can continue to develop such services in the future.

MPD Lt. Jeremy Yorke, who, among other responsibilities, is the liaison between the department and MYFS, said the program is one with significant potential to impact the community. The pilot is currently underway and will continue through the end of May, according to Yorke.

“It’s a great way to expand our community policing work,” Yorke said. “It’s a way of providing follow-up services and it’s a very customer service-oriented way. Law enforcement is shifting its focus to community policing and this is a great example of how we can provide more services. This is where we can coordinate with a social worker to coordinate with a family of individuals to help them access and coordinate the social services that would benefit them most.

“From a community policing perspective, it gives us another tool to help the community,” Yorke continued. “It’s such an opportunity to help residents get the help they might need. It’s about offering and providing an opportunity for a person where we can actually help them. Ultimately we can help de-escalate a situation but at the same time as Scott said we are not social workers… so ultimately it allows the ministry to be better equipped to do in the face of a crisis and these needs. We now have another tool that can really help citizens.

Yorke said any program that ensures both citizen and police safety is something the department is eager to develop. According to Yorke, social work intervention can only help in an immediate emergency, but it has great potential to reduce future crises and emergency calls.

“[A]As part of a pilot project, we will use what we learn during the process about our system and the needs of our community to determine the best approach to integrating social work services into [police department] in the near future,” Cochran said. “What we already knew is that in this city, the police regularly come into contact with people in crisis. But the police are not social workers…and I think it is doing the police and the residents a disservice to hold the police to that standard of a social worker…it seems reasonable to find a way to integrate a social worker somewhere in this process.

Yorke and Cochran stressed that the program is entirely voluntary, confidential and that no information collected by social services will be used by the police department.

According to Cochran, the MYFS and MPD are eager to develop a customized model that uses and builds on existing city resources and removes barriers to those helping in a crisis.

“MYFS is currently able to provide a wide range of mental health and social services, and our staff includes licensed mental health professionals and graduate trainees. There is an existing relationship between MPD and MYFS and great potential to build on this foundation and we believe we are in the best position to develop the right model for Madison. Our collective goal is to create one that is best suited to the needs of our own community, and that is responsive, cost-effective, and comprehensive,” Cochran said.

For more information about MYFS, call 203-245-5645 or visit The non-emergency number for the MPD is 203-245-6500.

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