Fort Wayne police adds 2 social workers to address ongoing substance abuse, mental health crisis

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – City officials announced the addition of two social workers to the Fort Wayne Police Department as part of efforts to address a growing number of substance abuse cases.

Mayor Tom Henry, alongside FWPD officers and the Lutheran Foundation made the announcement during a press conference on Thursday morning.

Since August, both social workers have partnered with the FWPD’s Hope and Recovery Team (HART), a quick response team who connects with individuals who have suffered a non-fatal overdose to treatment and recovery services.

The addition of these two social workers comes as the city has seen non-fatal and fatal overdose cases increase at an alarming rate in the past few years. A record number of non-fatal and fatal cases were reported last year, with nearly 1,000 non-fatal cases reported from January – September 2021.

Non-fatal overdosesOverdose deaths
201680468
20171,200127
20181,074108
2019829144
20201,243145
2021975 (through September)95 (through Oct. 13)
Non-fatal overdoses and deaths in Fort Wayne since 2016. Source: City of Fort Wayne

Mayor Henry sees the addition of social workers as a new beginning for the department. He hopes these first two, and possibly more in the future, will ease some of the responsibilities for FWPD officers.

“This is something we’ve asked our police officers to do for decades, to take on the work of social workers, and this is not what they’re trained to do,” Mayor Henry said. “There’s some small training but certainly not enough to handle some of the significant challenges that are part of today’s society.”

Darcy Robins, the lead social worker for FWPD, says she has already worked with hundreds of individuals since taking on the new role in March. She adds that the pandemic has played a factor into people’s mental health, and in turn has led to issues involving substance abuse.

“You’re seeing not only substance use disorder, but also (a) post-COVID mental health crisis,” Robins said. “We just have to show up for the officers, especially for their mental health and the trauma they see every day, going from call to call to call, plus show up for the community.”

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