I think this is a great start. If only judges and prosecutors were interested in LEO’s dealings with those struggling with mental illness…maybe the cops would stop getting bashed and those in need would get some help.

City cop, county social worker pairing wins award
By John Myers Today at 3:12 p.m.

A joint effort between St. Louis County social services and the Duluth Police Department to embed a social worker with officers on the street has won a statewide award from the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.

The award went to the effort, funded a year ago by the county, is aimed at keeping the city’s most vulnerable residents — often mentally ill and homeless — out of jail and hospital emergency rooms.

The “Excellence in Innovation Award” was presented at Tuesday’s county board meeting in Duluth.

Less than a year into the project, all involved say the pairing appears to be working to provide other options to settle police calls, thanks to the efforts of Ona Filipovich, the county Health and Human Services Department staffer who is riding along with police.

“By partnering with the county’s Public Health and Human Services department, Duluth Police officers are able to more quickly connect individuals with mental illness to the most appropriate resources and services,” the chief’s association said in announcing the award.

During the first months of this program, the Duluth Police Department reports it has eliminated the need to use force in many situations and is forming trusting relationships with individuals suffering from mental illness.

Duluth Police Lt. Chad Nagorski said the effort already has attracted the interest of police departments in Minneapolis, St. Cloud and Rochester as law enforcement deals with an increasing caseload involving people with mental illness.

Since 2007, Nagorski said, Duluth Police have seen a “50 percent increase in calls for service for mental health” issues.

The effort received praise Tuesday from county commissioners, who agreed last year to fund the experimental effort, as well as Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, who thanked the county for its awareness of the link between mental health and 911 calls.

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