WOODSTOCK, Ill. – After a year in operation, the McHenry County Police Social Work program is making a difference and changing lives for the better.
The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office began partnering in June 2022 with 18 local law enforcement agencies to create the program, which supports police officers with full-time police social workers to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the county’s network of social service providers. The team consists of six police social workers and a clinical supervisor who report to a Sheriff’s Office sergeant.
“The program has provided valuable assistance and training to our staff, which has benefited the residents we serve by being another valuable resource we can rely on while responding to those in crisis. This has resulted in improved services to those citizens in need, and a reduction in repeated responses,” Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said.
One of the most significant benefits has been a two-thirds decrease in the recidivism rates of people who have had police social worker involvement. In the first two quarters of the current 2023 fiscal year, the percentage of clients who had less police contact following intervention were 68% and 70%, respectively.
“I’ve watched the police social workers interacting with Algonquin residents and referring them to services, and we’ve seen a decrease in our call volume to many residences after they have worked with a police social worker,” Algonquin Police Sgt. James Sowizrol said. “The police social worker also provides valuable information to officers to use on calls to help mitigate challenges and reduce police response.”
Participating police departments also benefit from the training and collaboration that have come with the program – especially smaller departments that don’t have the budgets of larger municipalities. The program allows these agencies to focus less on mental health calls and more on minimizing crime and increasing community awareness and involvement.
“As a smaller agency with limited resources, this collaboration has benefited our community by allowing our department to give mental health calls the proper attention and level of service they deserve while freeing up police officers to continue public safety and community efforts,” Marengo Police Chief Nathan Hayes said.
Police social workers not only help respond to calls for service, but also follow up with clients after they have been connected with the services they are determined to need.
“We’ve seen firsthand in Fox River Grove how our residents are connected to long-term support with our police social worker’s assistance,” Police Chief Eric Waitrovich said. “The follow-up by our police social worker to our residents is a force multiplier that minimizes and mitigates further police response. Residents are provided resources, phone numbers, things they can do and connections to aid in the crisis at hand – all of which result in lasting and effective solutions.”
The program was developed in cooperation with the Sheriff’s Office, the County Board and the McHenry County Mental Health Board, and is funded by these agencies and each participating jurisdiction. The program is presently housed at office space generously donated by The Community Foundation for McHenry County.
“The Police Social Work Program has made great strides in connecting residents to resources. We are pleased with the success thus far and are excited for the future of the program,” Sheriff Robb Tadelman said.
“We knew when we joined forces to put this program together that it would make a difference in people’s lives that would have a positive effect across entire communities and McHenry County as a whole,” County Board Chairman Mike Buehler said. “It fused our dedicated men and women of law enforcement with McHenry County’s deep network of dedicated and caring social service agencies, and the results have been nothing short of spectacular. I can’t wait to see the positive community effect grow in the coming years.”
Participating police departments include Algonquin, Bull Valley, Cary, Crystal Lake, Fox River Grove, Harvard, Johnsburg, Lakewood, Marengo, McCullom Lake, McHenry County College, the McHenry County Conservation District, Oakwood Hills, Prairie Grove, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Woodstock.
CONTACT: Sgt. Aimee Knop 815-334-4702 Police Social Work Program Director ANKnop@mchenrycountyil.gov