ST. LOUIS– Mayor Tishaura Jones joined academic leaders and advocates in a Washington University St. Louis Brown School’s virtual roundtable discussing the importance of social workers in improving public safety.
She explained it is time to put the public back into public safety.
The mayor’s 2021 budget includes funding for more than 25 new social workers. She said it is part of the city’s Social Worker for St. Louis Initiative.
One of the other panelists described social workers as disruptors. Jones said that is what the city needs.
“We are looking to disrupt and transform our current public safety system to be one that is outward-looking and helps people,” said Jones during the panel.
She explained that increasing the number of social workers will mean there is more help for diversion call efforts. She said that by connecting people with the right resources there will be fewer people involved in the criminal justice system.
Jones highlighted the success of the “Cops and Clinicians” program that started in February. She said since then, about 70% of the people that have been encountered by the program have been diverted from entering the criminal justice program.
Serena Muhammad with the St. Louis Violence Prevention Commission (VPC) has been working with the Jones’ administration on laying the groundwork so the social workers will have the right resources to be effective.
Muhammad said some of the resources VPC is working on putting into place are:
- economic mobility programs that serve families who have experienced generational poverty
- culturally compotent therapy counseling services for toxic stress and trauma
- a redesign of the emergency assistance programs so they can help stabilize households longterm and not just moving people from one crisis to the next.
Dr. Sean Joe with the Brown School at Washington University and Homegrown STL also took part in the discussion.
He said the outcomes the city could expect to see from putting more social workers into action would be a greater reduction in criminalizing behavior and mental health issues, less likely to have inadvertent deaths, and better services to residents in the area if they know they can get the quality of care when they need it.