Social worker field team eyed to handle police call overload

Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore

HUDSON — Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore is making progress on addressing the number of calls for “emotionally disturbed” individuals in the city, he said.

At the Common Council’s informal meeting Oct. 12, Moore said he is working with Columbia Memorial Health to explore the possibility of creating a field team to handle the calls.

“There has to be some kind of other resolution to this matter to improve the quality of life not only for our citizens but for the people affected themselves that need treatment,” Moore said.

A field team would consist of social workers who can proactively confront these individuals, he said.

Moore said due to Hudson’s small size, a team should be able to handle the task. But larger cities implementing similar systems get more money.

“The bad news is that we don’t get a lot of that funding. But the good news is because we’ve done case studies on about six to eight of these folks that we think it’s a number that we can manage with this team. And with the right application of resources that we might be able to make an actual improvement that people can see,” Moore said.

Moore said the team has continued its work in October.

“We’ll carry on in the month of October with the idea about forming a field team to go out and address these people’s needs, especially with the cold weather coming in. So that’s in the works,” he said.

Moore said at the September Common Council informal meeting the department gets routine calls for “emotionally disturbed” people for the same six individuals, and often the people — who Moore said are frequently under the influence of substances — request an ambulance for a physical injury.

He said for the entire month of September, the department received 18 calls for emotionally disturbed individuals.

“Eighteen is a lot for one month,” Moore said.

They are often immediately discharged from the hospital or leave on their own, Moore said.

The issue is primarily in Oakdale Park but rings true across the city, he said.

The repeat callers are generally not homeless people, Moore said.

“They have a place to go where it’s warm, and they can have a shower, but they decide not to, sometimes sleeping all night in the park or in an alleyway,” he said.

Paramedics and ambulances in the area don’t have the capacity to regularly respond to these calls, Moore said.

“The concern here at public safety is that multiple ambulances have been dispatched for emotionally disturbed people that really don’t require medical treatment. And then that’s tying up valuable ambulance time, police time, that might be called away for more serious accidents,” Moore said.

The issue came to head in late August, Moore said. One person had 13 ambulance dispatches but walked out of the hospital each time.

Moore said in September, he became part of an interdisciplinary team to develop solutions to the problem, and he met with Columbia County Emergency Medical Services Coordinator P.J. Keeler, Columbia Memorial Health Chief Financial Officer Brian Mahoney, CMH Psychiatry Program Director Brian Stewart and team members from the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team at the Neighborhood Center.

He said leaving these meetings, the group discerned that there hasn’t been any progress made since the same situation arose last year.

The Columbia County EMS system includes all municipal agencies, Columbia County EMS Coordinator P.J. Keeler said. This allows the 911 center to move people around from area to area as needed. Columbia County shares something in common with many places: A shortage of EMS workers, as the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on emergency training.

“That has really saved us,” Keeler said. “Because we’ll find one agency may be having a difficult time staffing, or people call in sick, other agencies can chip in when their call volume dictates it. We do have the county covered, but we could use more EMTs and paramedics, not just in Columbia County, but regionally and nationally as well.”

Keeler, who is also the county treasurer, said although the idea is in the early stages, the county is looking for ways to fund the team. Stimulus money is an option, he said, and so is support from the city of Hudson.

“Hopefully we can move forward in the not too distant future,” Keeler said.

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(1) comment

scottmyers

Police are members of law enforcement, not social or mental health workers. The more we operate with this in mind the better we'll be.

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