Victory Over Violence: University of Illinois sends social workers with officers

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – University of Illinois police cars and officers are around the community every day, but now, there’s going to be more people with them to help you in your time of need.

Calling 911, you expect a police officer, firefighter, or EMT to be sent to your location, but what if someone else was added to that group?

“We really thought to do the most good, and to address the issues the community is bringing up, we have to provide that clinician on scene right away,” Megan Cambron, the crisis outreach coordinator, said.

This month, U of I police added a crisis counselor or social worker to the mix of first responders.

“Anytime somebody calls, if they’re in any sort of crisis, so it could be suicidal, it could be something else mental health related. I will be going on scene and doing risk assessments or needs assessments, and trying to minimize hospitalizations or incarcerations for individuals,” Amanda Brockway, a crisis counselor or social worker for UIPD, said.

She said she feels this position can help bridge a gap between the community, and law enforcement.

“I’m not a police officer, but I am a social worker, I’m here to help,” she said. “This is really my passion. I really love to help people. I have experience working in the mental health field and the crisis field. So, putting them both together, this was the perfect job for me,” she said.

Cambron has been with U of I police since January, working on the program. She said it’s been a long time coming, but knows it’s important

“This is something the community has asked for. We’ve heard the community saying we want something different. We want to minimize police response in mental health calls. So, this is a way we can do that,” she said.

UIPD said they have another social worker going through the process right now to start. They hope they can work with other law enforcement agencies across Central Illinois and beyond to help them start this, or a similar program.

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