Co-Responder Program as a pilot in its largest municipality, Bensalem Township. Bucks County leadership and the Bensalem Township Police Department successfully launched this initiative. This pilot is fully funded through current MH Base dollars and consists of a two-person mobile social worker team embedded in the Bensalem Township Police Department. The team partners with law enforcement and serves as a liaison in addressing the social service needs of individuals contacting 911 Emergency Services to affect the following outcomes: decrease the time law enforcement spends in response to a situation involving social service needs; provide a more effective emergency response through the addition of clinical-informed support and an enhanced community resource knowledge base; ensure those who outreach for an emergency response receive timely and streamlined connection to resources to address their social service needs; and divert individuals with primary social service needs from further penetration into the criminal justice system.
The Bucks County Co-Responder Program pairs social service professionals/Co-Responders with police officers to divert people away from the criminal justice system. The Co-Responders respond to 911 calls involving individual who are suffering from mental health and drug concerns in all areas of the population including children, teens, adults, and older adults. Police usually arrive at the scene first and, once the scene/situation is deemed safe, the officer will call for the co-responders’ help.
After the pilot program in Bensalem (with Co-Responder Walter Bynum) showed impressive results, in December 2021, we expanded our Co-Responder Program into Falls and Middletown Townships' Police Departments (with Co-Responders Cara Gadzinski and Jessica LoPresti), and in April 2022, into the Bristol Township, Bristol Borough, and Tullytown Police Departments (with Co-Responders Keevon Johnson and Tia Kazee).
According to our evaluator, Pat Griffin from Holy Family University, the co-responder pilot program in Bensalem has been successful in diverting individuals from further entering the criminal justice system and getting their social service needs met. Some Co-Responder program highlights from her 2021 report are included below:
2021 Co-Responder Program Highlights
Source document: Bucks County Human Services Co-Responder Evaluation Report: Bensalem Pilot Program (December 2020 – December 2021), Pat Griffin, Holy Family University
In December of 2020, two Co-Responders were assigned to Bensalem Township Police Department where they responded to 279 calls and served 212 individuals; 25% of these individuals were considered high-utilizers (by definition had called 911 three or more times in a given period). In the 6-month post-contact with the co-responders, this group represented approximately 2% of the total number of calls thus suggesting that the ‘high utilizers’ were connected to human service providers in the community versus calling the police or 911 for assistance.
Twenty-six (26) referrals were made to County providers (or other) in the first six months of the program followed by seventy-seven (77) referrals made in the subsequent six-month period showing that that the Co-Responders streamlined connection based off individuals’ direct and indirect needs.
Data shows a significant decline in the amount of time police officers spend on a response to a social service call. The arrival of the Co-Responder has shown to speed the return of law enforcement to patrol or to address criminal matters.
Of the cases in which arrest was a possibility, fifty-five percent (55%) were instead diverted from jail or incarceration and connected to behavioral health services or human service providers when needed.
As the pilot progressed, the Co-Responders were more and more often being contacted directly by Bensalem police, school personnel, parents, and other community members.
Stay current on all that is going on with the Falls Township Co-Responders!