Coventry Police Department Intern as Social Work Student | Coventry

A Coventry resident attending Eastern Connecticut State University participated in a groundbreaking pilot internship in which social work students partnered with police officers to help resolve non-violent social issues in the community, officials said ‘school.

Emily Constantino, senior at ECSU, worked 400 hours, approximately 15 hours per week, with the Willamantic Police Department during the 2020-21 academic year. During this time, she worked with community members on non-violent police calls and follow-ups regarding mental health, substance abuse, homelessness and other social issues.

“It is common for law enforcement agencies to receive calls that have nothing to do with a crime or criminal activity,” Constantino said. “Integrating social workers into police services so that they can bring a higher level of understanding around these social issues is essential to ensure that communities remain safe, supported and united. “

Willimantic Police Chief Paul Hussey said many calls from the department are about people “severely disabled” – a classification for people who are unable to meet their basic needs due to mental health issues or disabilities. substance addiction.

“The system has failed a lot of these people,” Hussey said. “As we see them, they are in crisis. “

As police officers, “we get a week of training in crisis intervention, but there are people with qualifications to deal with these issues. It is in this severely disabled category – people who cannot take care of themselves or who need to be engaged and valued – that I think social work is best, ”he said. declared.

A crisis situation poses an increased risk to everyone involved – perpetrators, officers and bystanders, Hussey said.

“What we are trying to do is get out of the crisis phase and provide them with the services they need before a crisis occurs,” he continued. “That way we don’t have to use force to get them to leave, because most of the time when they’re in crisis they’re at a point of no return and not ready to go.”

Constantino described a time when she responded with an officer to a report of a drug overdose.

“Upon arriving, I met a woman who had just witnessed an overdose from her close friend in her apartment,” Constantino said. “This woman was clearly traumatized and was incredibly emotional watching the paramedics try to save her friend’s life. During this situation, I was able to speak with the woman and calm her down while the police and paramedics helped her friend.

“I am grateful to have been there to support this woman on this call; I can only imagine how terrifying it is to witness something like this happen, ”she added.

Constantino said social workers use their knowledge of human behavior, diverse populations and social services to create interventions that help clients feel supported during and after times of crisis.

The pilot internship was supervised by Isabel Logan, Assistant Professor of Social Work and Field Education Coordinator at Eastern. Prior to joining faculty, Logan worked for 20 years as a public advocate social worker, interacting with the same communities as the police, according to school officials.

“Police social workers have the ability to prevent and neutralize escalating cases to arrest,” Logan said, noting the drop in entry and recidivism rates into the justice system. The police service is the first point of entry into the justice system, she added.

While police social work is not a new concept, Logan said, the partnership is unique in the state because it is the first internship to integrate social work students into a municipal police department.

“It takes a special kind of intern to want to do that, number one, and then to have the characteristics that we need on the law enforcement side, so that we can trust them and have confidence in their ability to work with them. us, ”the lieutenant governor said. Matthew Solak, who worked closely with Constantino, said. “It takes someone with the right temper and level of maturity and discipline because they’ve seen things and been places that a lot of people don’t see and don’t do.”

“When I entered this internship, I knew little or nothing about police work,” Constantino said. “I really had no idea how this profession could work with social work to produce such positive results. I learned very quickly how the two worlds are stronger together than apart. “

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