Thursday, April 1, 2021

Social worker embedded with Canton police

Hegira Health, Inc. is placing an embedded social worker with the Canton Police Department, a one-year pilot program. 

Members of the township board of trustees discussed the program during their March 23 meeting, with Canton Township Director of Public Safety Chad Baugh who explained that many calls to police involve mental health issues, including substance abuse.

“I see it more navigating this world we live in,” Baugh said in response to a question from Trustee Sommer Foster.

Proposals came from Hegira Health, Growth Works, and Services to Enhance Potential. Baugh noted his department doesn't have a relationship with the latter, but has worked for years with Growth Works on the youth diversion program.

That keeps young people with less serious offenses out of the criminal justice system, with Baugh noting felony assaults don't qualify for court diversion.

The Police Department administration and Canton Finance Department interviewed Hegira Health, Growth Works, and STEP, recommending Hegira Health. The one-year program will cost $82,907 to be paid in monthly $6,908.92 installments.

“They're (Hegira) ready to hit the ground running with mental health,” Baugh said.

He told Foster and other board members the master's degree program is important, and likely will be filled by a single individual whose hours are to be determined.

“We'll look at all the metrics,” at the end of the contract, including referrals, said Baugh.

Jaime White of Hegira Health said her agency has been around some 40 years. It does mobile crisis co-response with eight area departments, including Plymouth Township and Inkster.

The pilot program in Canton began last September, said White. Hegira runs the 24/7 Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies from a Livonia facility.

“Our biggest concern is that people get the care they need in the moment,” White said.

Several Canton trustees questioned possible conflict with Growth Works over the diversion program and the new Hegira initiative. Baugh also praised Growth Works, noting “We cannot alienate any program.”

“If they (Growth Works) don't get it they don't get it. Professionalism is an expectation of any vendor we bring into this community,” Baugh told Clerk Michael Siegrist.

Siegrist explained he is in recovery, and that his wife works as a social worker. He cast the lone “No” vote on March 23 against proceeding with a Hegira Health contract, as he wanted to see details for the other two bidders.

Canton Township Supervisor Anne Marie Graham-Hudak was in favor of the program.

“The one-year pilot with Hegira Health is one of the steps in building a stronger community and also a proactive move to reduce the non-criminal calls for service on our police and other first responders. Police officers respond to many calls in our community including the recent increase in domestic violence, suicide and mental health issues, among others. Approximately 15 percent of Canton Police Department calls for service are non-criminal related and social workers will be Canton's second responders, assist where needed and also provide guidance to resources for our residents,” she said.

 Baugh noted there are hundreds of cases where a social worker will help, adding of police “The uniform is a barrier in itself.”

The embedded social worker program is one of the multiple programs the police department has originated, Baugh explained. The programs include the Police Community Engagement Team, the Juvenile Diversion Program, and the Canton Coalition for Inclusive Communities (CCIC). 

The embedded social worker program is another step in providing better service to our community, he said. Over the past few years, the police department has been monitoring the successes in portions of the country with similar embedded social worker programs. During the same timeframe, locally, the Canton Police Department has started a diversion program for Canton area youth with Growth Works' assistance. Similarly, Canton Police Department, in partnership with Growth Works, Saint Joseph's Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Northville Township, Westland, and Livonia, started a collaboration with a Growth Works' driven program. The program is commonly called Wayne Rescue Recovery and has grown from the original partnership with St. Mary Mercy Livonia to the 18 participating public safety departments in Western Wayne County, Baugh explained in a prepared statement. The recovery program is voluntary and was started by the founding agencies in 2018. The program employs peer recovery coaches who assist clients through their journey to recovery. 

The Canton Police Department handles mental health emergencies as a medical issue, focusing on a peaceful resolution to the situation through de-escalation. Canton police officers look at problems in a manner to help reduce danger for all parties. Further, Canton police officers look for opportunities to bring a holistic approach, including co-response initiatives with mental health professionals, social work professionals, family, friends, clergy, and support groups. In certain circumstances, there is a blend of many resources, including the criminal justice system and the police juvenile diversion program, Baugh said. 

Hegira Health is a co-occurring (substance use and mental health) capable agency through Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and integrates Peer services (Peer Recovery Coaches, Certified Peer Support Specialists, and Parent Support Partners) throughout their programs and has adopted the nationally-recognized Zero Suicide framework for suicide prevention. In addition, Hegira is funded as a CCBHC (Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic), which means that they can serve all people regardless of insurance status for ongoing treatment and services. 

For Canton Police Department, Hegira will ensure that the selected clinician is trained in Trauma-Informed Care, suicide prevention, and crisis response. The embedded clinician will follow-up with individuals and families with whom they have had contact to provide ongoing crisis stabilization to ensure they are linked with ongoing treatment and services in the community. 

One of the program's primary goals is to prevent future behavioral health crises, and engagement in ongoing treatment is a key component of prevention. For that reason, the embedded clinician's role is focused on crisis stabilization as opposed to long-term treatment. The clinician will work with the individual or family to access services at their treatment provider of choice. The process may include helping clients navigate the public mental health system; accessing information about their benefits; contacting a provider or assisting with transportation to the initial appointment 

The social worker will be embedded within the police department and is expected to be operational by summer.