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Stamford secures grant to hire second social worker for emergency response help

Ted Jankowski speaking to the public.
Tyler Sizemore
Hearst Connecticut Media
Stamford Director of Public Safety, Health and Welfare Ted Jankowski speaks beside Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons and Stamford Police Asst. Chief Silas Redd at a press conference outside the Government Center in Stamford, Conn. Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021.

A grant from the Department of Justice is headed to Stamford to boost the police department’s response to mental health and substance abuse calls. The three-year $550,000 award will help the city hire a licensed social worker to support the force and fund more outreach efforts.

“We all know how important mental health is and how much the past two years in particular underscored a rise in mental health challenges and substance abuse challenges,” said Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons. “We want to make sure we are supporting our community with appropriate responses.”

She announced the grant in Stamford on Wednesday alongside other city officials and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Simmons said the grant allows the city to continue the work that’s already in progress. The city’s police department “embedded” its first social worker to the force in May. The social worker occasionally rides with police officers, but more important, the social worker follows up with residents after an incident. Officials say that follow-up is sometimes crucial to preventing repeat calls.

“That social worker has followed through on over 200 incidents that have occurred to ensure that the individuals that are having mental health episodes receive the services that are necessary,” said Ted Jankowski, Stamford’s director of public safety.

He highlighted the department’s 24% decrease in mental health-related calls this year.

Jankowski said he understands that a police officer could be intimidating “to somebody who’s having a mental health episode or incident.” That’s why he believes having two social workers on the force will better help them serve the community. About 70% of the force has received crisis intervention training, according to Jankowski.

Some of the funds from the grant will also go to launching mental health fairs and improving outreach to juveniles.

Blumenthal, who was key in securing the grant, said being a police officer has never been more important and difficult. He hopes the grant will further support Stamford’s police department in becoming a leader in outreach efforts.

“These social workers are force multipliers, they expand the reach and authority of the police to do more and do it better,” Blumenthal said.

Camila Vallejo is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. She is a bilingual reporter based out of Fairfield County and welcomes all story ideas at cvallejo@ctpublic.org.

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