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Aurora Police, Social Workers Partner To Respond To Calls Together

AURORA, Ill. (CBS) -- A program pairing Aurora police officers with social workers is far exceeding the need in the community.

"Social workers forever have been going out on their own to things, and police officers have been going alone to things," said Janeth Barba, or "JB" as her coworkers call her, as she geared up for another day working alongside Det. Douglas Rashkow.

The social worker from the Family Service Association of Greater Elgin and the police officer are partners on the department's Crisis Intervention Team Enhanced, a program the two spearheaded that is comprised of 35 officers and social workers and four social work interns.

"It's something we probably should have done a long time ago, but again, we have the mindset in this culture that we are law enforcement. But again we're peace keepers more than anything else," said Rashkow.

What makes the program unique is the two respond to calls together.

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The program staff set out to help 500 people this year. So far, they have helped 700 and counting.

"A lot of the calls that we usually respond to are individuals that are presenting crisis that often have suicidal ideation, so they might either be calling themselves in a panic," said Barba.

They also respond to conflicts or to someone who may not be taking their medication.

"As a partnership, we could make a better impact on the individuals we were serving and essentially our services allow us to do an assessment in the community. And it's the same assessment that's being done in the emergency rooms, so it's a nicer, friendlier setting for individuals in a mental health crisis. From there we can determine what needs they had often times avoiding the emergency room altogether," she said.

Since the collaboration began earlier this year, Barba and Rashkow say the outcome has been nothing short of tremendous.

"It's a phenomenal feeling," Rashkow said. "I've arrested a lot of people. I've only made an arrest where I think an arrest makes a difference, but I've found this makes more of a difference not only to the individual but to their family, their community, their children, and everybody that interacts with us."

One thing they are extremely proud of is the number of people they have helped avoid citation or arrest. They were able to get those people either hospitalized or mental health services instead.

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