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Minneapolis seeks to hire social workers in every precinct to help with mental health 911 calls

The Minneapolis City Council will vote on the proposal Thursday.

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis City Council is looking to add five social workers to help Minneapolis police officers with mental health calls.

These five social workers — a full-time worker in each of the city's five precincts — will work directly with the police as part of a program coordinated by the Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department.

Coordinators say the social workers will help police identify community members who are struggling with mental health-related problems.

The program started three years ago when social workers were embedded in police departments in six communities across the county. The program has now expanded to every other city in Hennepin County, except Minneapolis.

Coordinators say the goal of this program is to get 911 callers the mental health support they need right away, hopefully preventing future calls and dangerous run-ins with police.

“If we are only touching that individual when the crisis hits, we’re not doing a lot around prevention of that next call. What we want to do is stabilize that individual by getting them connected to a whole bunch of things. It could be housing; it could be employed or so many other services,” Hennepin County Behavioral Health Director Leah Kaiser said.

The city's Policy and Government Oversight Committee approved the idea Monday afternoon.

The full city council will vote on it Thursday.

If it goes through, these social workers could be working alongside police officers sometime next year.

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