JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. — WHAS 11 reported about a Jeffersontown police program embedding social workers to respond to mental health calls and drug addiction.
Thursday, we checked in with the department following Governor Andy Beshear’s announcement Wednesday on new initiatives to retain and recruit social workers in the state.
The state is launching a pilot program to hire entry-level social workers within seven business days of applying. Beshear also announced plans to propose a loan forgiveness program for the state's social workers as part of his upcoming budget proposal. The governor also said nearly 4,000 state social workers will see a salary increase starting next week.
Social workers with the Jeffersontown Police Department said even though the salary increase doesn't apply to them, they're happy about the news, and they're hopeful more doors will open to increase attraction.
“They’re absolutely amazing and overworked and underpaid,” Amanda Chapman, victim service specialist, said. She’s soon to be promoted to community resource supervisor.
Chapman says she works with agencies, like Child Protective Services, regularly.
“They deal with some of the most vulnerable populations that are critical,” Chapman said.
Tia Pank, the newest social worker to join the police department, said no one is in it for the money, but the state desperately needs to retain the remaining social workers the state has.
“We need them to be rewarded by being paid the way that they should be,” Pank said.
That’s why Jeffersontown police's Major, Brittney Garrett, said she makes it a point to offer competitive pay for the newly formed social work program.
“We are so reliant upon their expertise in different ways that we absolutely have to pay them better,” Garrett said. “We’re doing our best here through our grants to try to provide that competitive salary because we want the best of the best working with us.”
Garrett said she can see the program continuing because of its success; they’ve responded to about 400 calls. However, she says a huge barrier is the specific types of grants.
For example, Chapman was hired through a victim services grant, which means funding is only available for helping crime victims – not for helping people suffering from mental health or drug abuse.
“Having an unrestricted grant for just generalized social work because they’re so many different specialties of categories that law enforcement will encounter with these first response models that you really need somebody that can do it all,” Chapman said.
They say they’ve been lucky to receive another grant, leading to Pank’s hire, but it’s hard to figure out and discourages departments.
Jeffersontown PD is looking for its next social worker. Click on this link to apply.
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