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'There is a critical need for social workers, especially in law enforcement': Hodgenville police adding social workers

Chief James Richardson said police too often put bandages on problems that would be better served by social workers with connections to community resources.

HODGENVILLE, Ky. — Hodgenville Police have launched a pilot program adding a social work student to their team. The idea is to show the impact of social work in law enforcement and to find funding for a full-time social worker. 

"I am not a fan of sending untrained social workers into police issues," Chief James Richardson said. "However there are times we need social workers."

Richardson said in cases where callers are dealing with a mental crisis, addiction, or other long-term issues, police often can't come back to help after the initial response. 

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“We barely have enough money to put police on the ground," he said. “There’s not interaction with us and that child after that, we just assume that child got what he or she needed and are on their way to being better. Then a week later we’re at the house again for the same thing.”

Richardson said the department tapped University of Kentucky social work student Brionna Taylor to help launch the program. 

Next semester, Taylor will work with HPD as an internship, a requirement for her Master's program. 

“I genuinely just hope we help people at the end of the day. I want to see my community grow and progress forward," Taylor said. 

Taylor said she'll spend the time bridging the gap between community members in need and critical resources. 

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"A smaller town means less money, it doesn't necessarily mean less of a need," she said. "In fact, I think there's more of a need because it means less resources."

Taylor said there is a critical need for social workers, especially in law enforcement. She said funding is the main hurdle.

"Find the money, because there is a need for it, we just can't find the money," she said. 

"If we can find the money we’re going to try and do something with it,” Richardson said. 

Taylor's internship lasts through next May when she graduates. 

After that, Richardson said the department will use its findings from the pilot program to push to fund a full-time social worker for the department. He said other departments could even start their own programs. 

“If the college needs kids to come out and do these things, we’re not the only community that could use this," he said.

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