UM Baltimore Police Partner with School of Social Work to Support Greater Community

Two social work interns and a licensed clinical social worker joined UMBPD to provide case management for vulnerable populations.

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Partnerships have long proven successful in improving safety within a community. Historically, these partnerships have been between various first responder groups. As the social divide within our country continues to widen, additional partnerships between first responders and social workers have proven extremely successful.

This rings true for the University of Maryland Baltimore Police Department’s partnership with the university’s School of Social Work (UMSSW) to help the West Baltimore community at large.

“We’re in a community that I feel has been overpoliced and underserved for years. We want to not only work with our campus — we want to work with the community,” said Thomas Leone, UMBPD’s chief of police and a 2023 Campus Safety Director of the Year finalist. “There was an opportunity for everybody to grow and learn from each other.”

In the fall of 2021, two social work interns and a licensed clinical social worker joined UMBPD to provide case management that police officers otherwise did not have the resources or time to manage. The UMSSW employees ride along with UMBPD’s Community Outreach and Support Team (COAST) to provide job referrals, drug treatment resources, and other connections for vulnerable populations, particularly those who are homeless.

“Our program was really good from the beginning when we just had COAST. Our pitfall was the follow-up and the wrap-around services. Putting the two together, we still provide the great service that we did with COAST but we also have the case management and follow-up with the social work interns,” said Leone. “When a call comes in, we dispatch COAST with the social worker. Sometimes when you get on the scene, you get a feel for which way it’s gonna go. Many of the police officers on our campus already have relationships with our vulnerable population, so sometimes when we get dispatched, the officers already have a relationship with that person. They do a soft hand-off to the social worker and then they can kind of back off and let the social worker engage.”

Through the partnership, from April 2022 to March 2023 alone, UMBPD and social work interns engaged 862 unsheltered community members and provided 430 service referrals, including referrals to the Veterans Affairs Community Resource and Referral Center, the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Service, Paul’s Place, and more. The social work interns also conducted 1,700 follow-up engagements with community members to ensure they got the services they needed.

UMBPD also helped 80 people get into drug treatment, helped another 400 people with basic living supplies, and gave 130 job referrals. Furthermore, the department helped 100 people get vital records such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, and identification.

“You can’t get a job without those pieces, and if you’re struggling to find yourself and figure out where you’re gonna go in life, some of those small things like an ID are super important,” said Leone. “We also have a pantry with clothes and suits and a food pantry as well. The social work interns put together the clothing pantry and we’re helping people get job interviews and helping them feel comfortable going for an interview, so we help them get haircuts. It really is just amazing how it’s all come together.”

Watch the full interview here or listen on the go on Apple or Spotify.

 

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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