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Posted on: April 13, 2023

Co-Responders Join Police in Upper Bucks

People standing on stairs.

Police in Upper Bucks recently welcomed two new Bucks County Human Services Co-Responders to their departments, bringing the successful pairing of social workers and police officers to several communities in the county’s northern reaches.  

Co-Responders Christopher Doheny, LMSW, and Melanie Murphy, MS, started work last month with Doheny based out of the Perkasie Borough Police Department and Murphy based out of Quakertown Borough Police Department.   

The co-responders collaborate with police, prosecutors and social services agencies to divert people in need of social services away from the criminal justice system. Since the end of 2020, the program has served more than 870 people.

People standing in front of a building.

PHOTO: From left, Perkasie Borough Police Officer Alexander Groves; Perkasie Borough Police Sgt. Seth Mumbauer; Bedminster Township Police Chief Matthew Phelan; Pennridge Regional Police Chief Paul Dickinson; Human Services Co-Responder Christopher Doheny, LMSW; Tinicum Township Police Chief Nicole Madden; Hilltown Township Police Chief Christopher Engelhart; Dublin Borough Police Chief Michael Regan

“The co-responder model is a reflection of what strong partnerships can bring to our communities,” said Bucks County Human Services Director Rachael Neff. “I am grateful for the police leadership that has taken on this initiative, and for our dedicated staff engaged in this work.” 

Together Doheny and Murphy work with the Quakertown Borough, Perkasie Borough, Tinicum Township, Hilltown Township, Springfield Township, Bedminster Township, Dublin Borough, Richland Township and Pennridge Regional police departments. As of this week, they had already received 38 referrals from police. 

Both new co-responders started their new positions at a salary of $59,000. The county will fund the positions for two years. 

A group of people

PHOTO: From left, Springfield Township Police Chief Michael McDonald; Richland Township Police Chief Richard Ficco; Quakertown Borough Police Lt. Donald Bender; Human Services Co-Responder Melanie Murphy, MS; Pennridge Regional Police Chief Paul Dickinson; Tinicum Township Police Chief Nicole Madden; Quakertown Borough Police Chief Scott McElree

With the new placements, the county’s Co-Responder Program is now operating in 15 police departments. The program launched in December 2020 with the Bensalem Township Police Department, and over the next two years expanded into police departments in Middletown Township, Falls Township, Bristol Borough, Bristol Township and Tullytown Borough. 

“Our co-responder program is not only getting people the appropriate help they need, but it is saving valuable law enforcement resources and freeing up an already-strained criminal justice system,” said Commissioner Vice Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia, who advocated for implementation of the co-responders programs for years. “We are incredibly proud of the successful model we’ve developed here in Bucks and hope to continue its expansion throughout the county, making our neighborhoods safer and our law enforcement partners more effective.” 

According to data collected as part of an ongoing review of the program, co-responders served 494 people and diverted more than half of cases where an arrest was possible away from the criminal justice system and into social services. Most referrals are for mental health issues. 

Police departments also reported a trending decline in the average amount of time officers spent responding to human services calls. 

People standing on stairs.

PHOTO: Back row from left, Springfield Township Police Chief Michael McDonald; Quakertown Borough Police Lt. Donald Bender; Perkasie Borough Police Sgt. Seth Mumbauer; Tinicum Township Police Chief Nicole Madden; Bedminster Township Police Chief Matthew Phelan; Pennridge Regional Police Chief Paul Dickinson. 

Middle row from left: Perkasie Borough Police Officer Alexander Groves, Dublin Borough Police Chief Michael Regan; Richland Township Police Chief Richard Ficco; Human Services Co-Responder Christopher Doheny, LMSW; Human Services Director Rachael Neff. 

Front row from left, Hilltown Township Police Chief Christopher Engelhart; Bucks County Human Services Community Engagement Officer Ivone Kovalksy; Human Services Co-Responder Melanie Murphy, MS; Quakertown Borough Police Chief Scott McElree

Media Contact: James O’Malley, 215-348-6414, jtomalley@buckscounty.org

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