Bensalem Township, PA

Program Pairs Cops, Social Workers

Gregory Vellner

A year after its launch, a Bucks County, PA “co-responder’ program that pairs police and social workers has been deemed a success and is expanding to additional municipal police department.

The suburban Philadelphia county’s newest co-responders, Jessica Manzo and Cara Gadzinski, began work in the first week of December alongside the Falls Township and Middletown Township police departments, where they help divert people in need of social services support away from the criminal justice system.

They are the first additions to the program since last December when the county’s first co-responders started with the Bensalem Police Department.

“I am honored that Middletown and Falls accepted our offer to continue the pilot co-responder program into their municipalities,” said Bucks County Commissioner Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia. “I am certain this is going to provide relief for officers who have been managing human service issues, and will be a responsive service for residents facing challenges.”

From December 2020 to June, the co-responders in Bensalem had contact with 132 people across 188 calls. Between initial responses and follow-ups, the co-responders spent approximately 185 hours with people in need of services.

A six-month review indicated the co-responders stationed in Bensalem seemed already to be helping to reduce the amount of time police officers spent on non-crime calls. Further review will be required to substantiate the early, but promising finding.

“We are very excited to bring this program to the community of Falls Township,” said Falls Police Chief Nelson Whitney. “This co-responder program represents another innovative step in improving services to our residents and improving their quality of life.”

Co-responders collaborate and coordinate with agencies both in the county’s criminal justice system such as the District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices, as well as more than two dozen social services groups including the Area Agency on Aging, the Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services Agency, and the Network of Victim Assistance.

In Bensalem, referrals for mental health in adults and juveniles accounted for more than half of all referrals made by the co-responders in the program’s first six months. About 35 percent of all referrals were to county government agencies, 34 percent to community-based social service agencies, and about 25 percent to medical entities.
Police on the street get help in new program.Unsplash

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As a professional journalist for several years -- reporter, editor, feature writer, columnist -- I handled a range of subjects. Breaking news, investigative series, government action, feature events, and staff feature writer with national entertainment magazine interviewing stars including Tom Selleck, Mel Brooks and Danny DeVito. No matter the topic, certain ingredients are key: truth, facts, objectivity, balance.

Bucks County, PA

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