Consider Denver’s model of partnering police and mental health workers
Re “In reimagined police force, much would be changed” (Page A1, April 25): Boston should learn from Denver. For years, the Denver Police Department and the Mental Health Center of Denver have created and expanded partnerships between police and mental health workers that are mutually supportive. Among several innovations, MHCD social workers accompany police in their patrol cars, jointly responding to calls involving suspected mental health issues. Most of these calls turn out not to involve primarily law enforcement issues, and once that has been determined, the social worker takes over. However, the social workers often find that they are more effective because their police officer colleague remains nearby, since people in distress often have difficulty taking offers of help seriously.
The deep mutual understanding and respect between police and social workers has had other benefits. MHCD social work staff experienced in supporting police and other first responders were invited to Boulder, Colo., in the aftermath of the recent mass shootings, providing invaluable post-trauma counseling and support to Boulder police and first responders.
In purely financial terms, the savings from fewer arrests and from finding alternatives to expensive criminal justice approaches appear greater than the modest salaries of social workers. Win-win.
Dr. Lachlan Forrow
The writer is a senior fellow at the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics, focusing on health equity and racism. His oldest daughter is a social worker with the Mental Health Center of Denver who works with the Denver Police Department.
Social worker would not answer 911 call alone
I am all for police force reform. But as a social worker, I can tell you that I would never answer a 911 call without a fully armed and equipped police detail right there with me, and I’m sure most experienced social workers feel the same way. Those are the most dangerous situations.
Laura A. Cecere
Plan for new women’s prison is a stark example of poor priorities
Re “In reimagined police force, much would be changed”: Shifting resources from building prisons to community-based alternatives would prevent police involvement and incarceration in the first place.
Governor Baker is proposing to spend tens of millions of dollars to build a new women’s prison in a state with one of the lowest rates of incarcerated women in the United States (“Fight over women’s prisons hits Mass.,” Page A1, April 27). State Representative Chynah Tyler and Senator Jo Comerford are lead sponsors of a bill that would place a moratorium on new prison construction for five years. Just imagine if instead of a new women’s prison, those tens of millions of dollars went to communities of color to treat trauma and addiction.
Borden is founder and executive director of New Beginnings Reentry Services. Goldner is a licensed independent clinical social worker.
Re “Fight over women’s prisons hits Mass.”: What is wrong with this picture? Did I read it correctly? “Currently, fewer than 200 women are incarcerated in the state,” but this administration is willing to spend as much as $40 million to build a new prison? Do they know how absurd that sounds? Surely that money would be far better (and more successfully) spent on programs that improve the lives of women and people of color. It’s time to reverse our priorities.