The Journal Gazette
Friday, November 05, 2021 1:00 am

City touts progress in FWPD initiative

Social workers aid people battling substance abuse

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne officials Thursday introduced two social workers who have helped 167 people since joining the Fort Wayne Police Department in August.

Darcy Robins and Samantha Taylor were hired after the city received a grant for $245,000 annually for three years. The sources are the federal government's Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant and Substance Abuse Program, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and the Lutheran Foundation.

The social workers have expertise to help people with substance abuse disorders who encounter law enforcement, Mayor Tom Henry said. The cases can be long-term and complex, and the social workers can direct individuals and their families to treatment options.

They also work with the Hope and Recovery Team, which is a quick response unit that connects people who have had overdose experiences to treatment and recovery services, a news release says.

Fort Wayne has seen 975 nonfatal overdose cases this year through September, and at least 95 people have died of overdoses through Oct. 13. Cause-of-death pronouncements are pending toxicology results in more than 20 fatalities.

The city saw record-breaking numbers for overdoses in 2020 with 1,243 nonfatal overdoses and 145 deaths. In 2019, 829 people had nonfatal overdoses and 144 people died of overdose.

Capt. Kevin Hunter read some comments from a family that recently worked with the social workers. The statement called their efforts “a godsend” and “fundamental to recovery.”

Henry said he's excited about the progress the social workers have made.

“Public safety and well-being of the residents of our community are our top priorities,” he said. “We know the challenges of Fort Wayne that are present every day in this community. We are working tirelessly to address those issues.”

Robins and Taylor have worked with 29 social service organizations since August, in addition to helping more than 150 people. The social workers are focused on substance abuse issues, but Robins said their work will cover several other issues.

“We want to build connections with social service industries and start to deconstruct those silos,” she said. “We want to connect the community to the department so robust conversations can happen. We want to connect officers with peer support so they can take care of their mental health.”

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