By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Police Department used the services of a local counseling firm at least a half dozen times in the first month of a pilot program.
The borough has an agreement with the Naugatuck-based Stokes Counseling Services to work with the police department. Under the agreement, the borough pays the company $50 an hour for social work services and $75 an hour for services provided by a licensed therapist. The budget includes $30,000 this fiscal year for counseling services to work with police.
Stokes Counseling Services, which opened in 2011, specializes in a number of areas, including family therapy and anger management, and treating anxiety, depression and trauma, according to its website.
The pilot program launched in the first week of July. The counseling firm has designated Keisha Miller to work with the department.
Police had a caseload in the first month with at least a half dozen referrals, some of which required a follow-up, Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister said. The referrals included juvenile issues, runaways and people in need of housing, he said.
Miller works out of the department on Tuesdays and Thursdays from about 2 to 7 p.m. Miller doesn’t respond to calls with officers, but rather provides follow-up services after someone calls the police for something that may not best suited for officers to handle, McAllister said.
“It isn’t an actual prevention of calls but a reduction of calls in the future,” McAllister said. “That’s really what the goal of this is.”
McAllister said it’s possible the counselor will respond to the scene with officers at some point in the future.
“We’re flexible with this, trying to find what works best,” McAllister said. “The main thing is making that connection.”
The department also has an option to request on-call services after normal hours. McAllister said there was one incident that required police to request help outside of the normal hours.
McAllister said it’s too early to measure the program’s success. He said the department will make adjustments as it goes and is in consistent communication with Stokes Counseling Services.
“Often officers are just trying to problem solve. That’s what the program does is problem solve,” McAllister said. “We need additional help to work through those solutions and social workers can provide that.”
McAllister said the program has increased the quality of service the department can provide to the community.
“I think we’re off to a good start,” he said. “We’re looking to build on the success of this program and continue to move it forward.”
Michael Stokes, a licensed professional counselor and owner of Stokes Counseling Services, said the collaboration is going fantastic at the department and the firm is getting familiar with police and the issues.
“Topics such as housing, food, elder care, youth supports and domestic violence issues are some of the presenting concerns we are already helping with,” Stokes said.
Miller is available for follow-ups and case management when she’s not at the department, Stokes said.
The counseling firm participated in the Naugatuck Police Department’s National Night Out event on Aug. 3, and Miller met members of the community and had a chance to hear people’s concerns, Stokes said.
“We look forward to continue to dive into the work within the community,” Stokes said.
Miller makes it two social workers working with the police department.
In 2019, the state Department of Children and Families provided a social worker onsite to work with the police department on family issues. The program was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a DCF social worker has returned and is again working out of the department.
The DCF social worker is at the department two to three days a week during normal business hours. There is an opportunity for both social workers to work collaboratively, according to McAllister.