BY ANDREAS YILMA REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
NAUGATUCK — The Board of Mayor and Burgesses on June 6 approved hiring Sheri Hatfield of Stokes Counseling Services as a Naugatuck Police social worker.
Hatfield will be a borough employee effective July 1 rather than a contract worker.
The borough launched a pilot program in July 2021 with Stokes Counseling Services where its social worker Keisha Miller was contracted with borough police. The endeavor was deemed a success.
Before the start of this current fiscal year of 2022-23 in May 2022, the borough contracted with Stokes again for a part time social worker to help with substance abuse, behavioral and emotional issues, and people struggling with housing.
Police Chief Colin McAllister said Hatfield has been valuable to the police department for the past year. He said she was at the forefront of some of the police department’s major cases including the homicide of baby Camilla in December 2022.
“She was somebody who was able to stay with the family, comfort them. From an operational standpoint, she was acting as a liaison so when detectives were visiting with that family on a near daily basis, sometimes multiple times,” McAllister said. “Our intent was to avoid re-traumatizing the family and having a trained clinician that was able to kind of translate for us a little bit when we needed to speak with the family again.”
McAllister gave another example and said Hatfield was able to sit with and made sure they had all the services last year for the family of a borough man who was severely injured after he was struck by a car from a group of car thieves after he tried to save his hand tools, his livelihood.
“Our officers will see things from people out there on the road that just needs some help and she’s (Hatfield) been great in getting people services,” McAllister said. “I’ve asked the borough to take her on as an employee because I feel that ensuring that she has some vacation, leave, adequate benefits is a fair trade for the services she’s giving to the community over the past year.”
Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the two social workers positions have already been taken into account for the budget that passed last month.
“It’s already in the budget and also in the budget is an additional contract with Stokes for a second social worker who will be under contract and who will be working closely on our opioid cases and our drug related cases, free Sherri up for some of the other cases,” Hess said.
Stokes will provide the other social worker who will be contracted out of the counseling firm and focus on other things such as addiction services and opioid cases. The social worker has yet to be determined, McAllister said.
McAllister said both social workers will be working 40 hours a week and out of the Naugatuck Police Department headquarters. Although Hatfield will be working on the more higher level of care for more intricate, complex cases, both social workers will be working off each other and would be called out scenes once the scene has been established.
The trend is an increasing thing now where it’s actually becoming a niche service and the borough is seeing other police departments contract with social workers as people are in need of those services, McAllister said.
“It’s been well received the community overall and the police department,” McAllister said. “There’s not shortage of work and cases.”