Two Northern Kentucky police departments have hired social workers, the first in the state to do so; helps in drug fight

The Alexandria Police Department in Northern Kentucky was the first police department in the state to hire a full-time police social worker. It’s been so successful they are hiring another one and the nearby Erlanger Police Department has hired one too.

“For the first time in my career I’m seeing this agency help people work through problems that we have never been able to help with,” Police Chief Mike Ward said on the Kentucky Educational Television program “Disrupting the Opioid Epidemic.”

The Kentucky Enquirerreported that Lexington, Louisville and Bowling Green have previously hired social workers that focus on victims’ advocacy, but Alexandria’s hire “will focus, as programs in Illinois and Wisconsin do, on every kind of case from helping children impacted by domestic violence to criminal cases.”

“People in crisis cannot self-advocate . . . and that’s where the police social worker comes in and helps guide people to the right services,” Ward said on KET. He added that 67 percent of their calls for service are non-criminal in nature and said, “When people don’t know what to do, they call 911.”

Van Ingram, who served with the Maysville Police Department for more than 23 years, six as chief, and is now the executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, called Ward’s idea to hire a police social worker “genius.”

“A lot of police are often reluctant to step into that social workers role because frankly, that’s not what we are trained to do,” Ingram said. “But to have one there at the police department to make those referrals, that can help with those situations is just genius in my mind.”

Abbie Darst of Kentucky Law Enforcement Magazine reported last year how Ward learned about the police social work position and how it’s working out.

Pompilio leaves these cards with heroin
users or their family members in the hopes
they will seek treatment. (WCPO image)

One of the programs spearheaded by Kelly Pompilio, the agencies’ police social worker, is the Angel Program, which was created by the Alexandria police and has been replicated across the state. This program, with the help of volunteers, not only helps people with substance use disorders get into treatment, but also helps them move through recovery to find jobs or educational opportunities. The program has reached out to more than 90 individuals, with over 40 entering treatment.

Abby Anstead and Kristyn Hartman of  Cincinnati’s WCPO-TV reported in detail about Pompilio and the Angel Program.

“The biggest thing I do is helping families in crisis getting linked to what they need and being able to make those phone calls for them,” Pompilio told them. “With our drug treatment programs, each addict, I probably call 10 facilities each time and put them on waiting lists, find out what insurance they accept, what the waiting list is, what their program looks like, their availability — and for a family member to have to do that when they’ve already been emotionally drained, that’s very difficult.”

Ward’s advice to other police departments: “Hire a darn social worker and let them do the job, they are phenomenal.”

The Erlanger Police Department has done just that, Breanna Molloy reports for WCPO. Inspired by Alexandria, the Erlanger department hired its own social worker, Becky Strouse, who told Molloy in April that in her two months on the job, she had already followed up on dozens of calls related to mental illness, drug abuse and domestic violence.

“For example, there was a domestic violence situation where we had been called multiple times in a three-day time frame. And then we were able to get the mom and the children out of the home and get them placed into a safe place,” Strouse said.

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