The Worst-Case Scenario (WaPo article about police officers handling mental health calls)

Every once in a while WaPo still manages to write a good article. I don’t mean “good” in the sense that “I agree with it”, I mean “good” in the sense that it manages to present multiple perspectives in a fairly un-biased manner, the way journalism used to do.

Of course nowadays “Comments are turned off” on such articles for fear of what people will say. It’s still a good article and I feel for everyone involved.

If a Social Worker is sent on those calls, they are going to demand a police escort. Same outcomes.

On the one hand, I think it might be good to include a social worker, because cops aren’t social workers. On the other hand, many of the social workers I know are so overworked already that this would seem to require a specially trained unit of social workers who maybe just work with the cops, and I’m not sure how the logistics of that would work.

It seems like there needs to be a better procedure than this though.

In a time when police departments are being defunded, there’s not much chance lawmakers will add funds for social workers in addition to cops. If anything, they’ll just send social workers alone, and then abandon that when it turns out badly.

The first time a social worker gets shot, then the police will have to come anyway.

Then they’ll discontinue the “social workers instead” program, but they won’t raise spending on police.

A female family member’s first job, some 50 years ago, was as a social worker, usually with schools. Early on, she was asked to accompany a more experienced worker, on a call to parents, re: their child. Not a high pressure situation, on the face. No discussion took place, as a gun was produced, almost immediately, to induce an immediate cessation of the visit. So it did. And a change of career followed. No idea what the followup on the child was.

1 Like

I have a friend who spent a couple years as a social worker. He soon became frustrated with the workload and with feeling like he was unable to really do anything to help any of the people he worked with. It was basically a case of visiting the same people who were in the same mess over and over on a regular basis. He quit and did something else.


The time for a Social Worker to engage would be weeks or even months before the crisis where 911 is called. It takes time to convince people to get help, and then time for said help to have an impact.

A SW riding in the back seat with Police will not be better at de-escalation in a crisis, they have less training/experience than cops in this area.

As the article indicated, cops are practicing de-escalation on a daily basis.


I’m also wondering how many mentally unwell people are having trouble getting their meds lately for the same reason this lady did - getting the runaround or stuff being closed due to COVID.

1 Like

About 10 years ago I was part of a group that piloted a new program in our area to deal with stuff like this. I was trained in most aspects of law enforcement but was not a cop at that time. I was doing social work at that time.

The program was to take those who were under state supervision (probation) and had a significant mental illness into one group and have them supervised by a specialty team. As I did have training in both I did a lot of field work and call outs. As the program became known officers would call and ask me to go to a call with them to help out.

There were many cases when things were able to resolved without a lot of trouble and peaceably. I enjoyed that work and I was proud of what our group accomplished. My goodness, now that I think about it a bit more, it was 20 years ago. Time flies.

1 Like

The first time a social worker gets shot will likely be the last time when most of the rest of them refuse to enter “hot” situations. They signed up to work with people, God bless them, but they did not sign up to get shot at.

Domestic disturbances are up there among law enforcement officers’ least favorite calls. But somehow the presence of a social worker will defuse every situation enough to override the sense of danger inherent in these calls?


1 Like

Even before the quarantine, there is an enormous number of people who live on the edge.
By that I mean they’re right on the borderline of poverty but don’t quite fit the definition.
A lot of people who tick many of the boxes for symptoms of mental illness but don’t quite hit enough for a formal diagnosis.
Or who have quite a few chronic stressors and somehow manage to rock along but are two tragedies away from a nervous breakdown.

This quarantine isn’t helping these people :confused:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit