Police Social Workers: An Insider’s View (Part 3)

(from mhcd.org)
(from mhcd.org)

There are two more ways that social workers and other mental health professionals can assist police officers and their departments: 

  • Community Mental Health Liaisons

“The Community Mental Health Liaison (CMHL) program is part of the Strengthening Mental Health Initiative. Thirty-one CMHLs work across the state [Missouri] to assist law enforcement and courts.  The goal is to form better community partnerships between Community Behavioral Health Clinics, law enforcement, and courts to save valuable resources that might otherwise be expended on unnecessary jail, prison, and hospital stays and to improve outcomes for individuals with behavioral health issues. Liaisons also follow-up with Missourians referred to them in order to track progress and ensure success.  Through the CMHL program, people with behavioral health issues who have frequent interaction with law enforcement and the courts will have improved access to behavioral health treatment.”  

  • One-on-one psychotherapy to treat trauma in first responders

The experiencing of trauma among military personnel has been well publicized.  If traumatic memories are untreated, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may result.  However, the vast majority of PTSD is among civilians who are exposed to traumatic events such as crime, accidents, and natural disasters.  Less well publicized is the role of trauma and PTSD in first responders:  police, fire, and EMS.  Fortunately, in 1989 a psychotherapy technique known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing “was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories.”  Currently, many therapists specialize in treating traumatic events in first responders.  The COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of possible trauma, especially for emergency medical services (EMS) personnel.  Crisis hotlines just for first responders have sprung up.  In the author’s opinion, the main barrier remains the stigma of mental illness and seeking help for disturbing symptoms. 


Police officers and social workers deal with many similar populations, and each profession works in its own way to alleviate human suffering.  For over one century various models of collaboration have been successful.  However, it is not necessary to “defund the police” to create liaisons with social workers.  Particularly when it comes to the treatment of persons with mental illness, we as a society must ask hard questions about funding, treatment, and desired outcomes. What models here and in other countries have been successful?  Second, we need more role models to self-disclose that seeking treatment is not a weakness, but rather a sign of strength. 



— Warren Lind is a retired licensed clinical social worker and a full-time security officer who writes extensively about crime, survival, and self-defense.  He a long-time CCW holder and is a member of too many pro-2A organizations to list. 

All DRGO articles by Warren Lind