By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — Borough officials have a deal in place with a local counseling firm to work with the Naugatuck Police Department to provide services.
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses on June 1 approved an agreement with the Naugatuck-based Stokes Counseling Services. Under the agreement, the borough will pay $50 an hour for social work services and $75 an hour for services provided by a licensed therapist. The 2021-22 budget includes $30,000 for counseling services to work with police.
Stokes Counseling Services, which opened in 2011, employs dozens of licensed counselors and offers a range of counseling services. The firm specializes in a number of areas, including family therapy and anger management, and treating anxiety, depression and trauma, according to its website.
Deputy Police Chief Colin McAllister said officials envision using the firm to help people who call police but may be better served through social services. This covers a range of issues, he said, including substance abuse, juvenile matters, civil disputes and mental health issues.
Michael Stokes, a licensed professional counselor and owner of Stokes Counseling Services, said police officers will continue responding to calls. Officers will determine on a case-by-case basis whether a social worker needs to respond to a call or someone needs to be referred for services, he said. A counselor would also help police deescalate a situation, he said.
The firm can also connect people with services and provide follow-ups, depending on the issue, Stokes said. Police officers can use the services, he said. People who use the services through the program will not be charged.
McAllister said officials are working with Stokes to iron out the details of the pilot program.
To start, the plan is to designate a counselor to work with police and be stationed at the department for 10 hours Monday through Friday. Stokes said officials are still discussing their options, including having a counselor available to be on-call.
McAllister said police want to ensure a social worker is available at least during what he described as the peak time for calls, which is about 2 to 6 p.m.
McAllister said officials will look to focus resources as the pilot program gets off the ground in July. He said the program will be adjusted as needed.
“We want to find a program that best fits Naugatuck, to increase quality of services,” McAllister said.
Police officials and representatives of the firm plan to meet weekly to review department needs and to follow up with calls, according to Stokes. He said the contract is open-ended and can be molded around what police need.
Stokes said the intent of the program is to be proactive.
“The goal for the program is to take a preventive approach to connecting folks to services and getting them what they need, so they’re not using the police department for reactive social work,” Stokes said.
This won’t be the first time the police department has worked with a social worker.
In 2019, the state Department of Children and Families provided a social worker onsite to work with the police department on family issues.
Gary Kleeblatt, a spokesman for DCF, said the social worker has remained in close contact with police throughout the pandemic. He said DCF is in discussions with the police department for resuming an onsite presence in July.
“This is a very effective partnership that benefits children and families, and we greatly appreciate this extraordinary level of collaboration with Naugatuck police,” he said.