The Indiana University Board of Trustees heard about an innovative and productive pairing of social work and law enforcement at their June meeting. Darcy Robins, a graduate student in the IU School of Social Work at IU Fort Wayne, is teaming up with the Purdue Police Department to learn more about how social work skills can help police better serve the campus community.
Robins' first field practicum was conducted with the Purdue Police Department last semester; the graduate student developed a system for tracking mental health-related calls, accompanied officers on calls, and assisted students who were experiencing mental health crises or stress. Robins also developed a resource guide for officers to use on calls involving students who were experiencing challenges such as stress, anxiety, food insecurity and relationship issues.
Social workers have specific clinical training as therapists and typically work to help people overcome obstacles involving poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness and other issues.
Several students from the Master of Social Work program have had successful practicum placements with adult probation departments, community corrections, drug courts and parole offices. Social workers bring conceptual knowledge and practice skills that can help mitigate underlying challenges that contribute to criminal involvement. Robins is the first MSW student in the program to work directly within a police department.
"Chief Tim Potts welcomed the idea of hosting an MSW student and envisioned how it could benefit both the campus and the officers," said Jan Nes, coordinator of the IU School of Social Work's Master of Social Work program at IU Fort Wayne. "With his help, Darcy is paving the way for change. They're collecting data on the types of calls coming in and the mental health issues involved in those calls. Collecting this data can help identify resource needs for the community and for individuals intersecting with officers."
Robins will continue working with the Purdue Police Department and Potts during the 2019-20 school year for a more focused practicum that will focus on mental health and addictions.