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Fullerton to Respond to Homelessness, Non-Life-Threatening Emergencies With Social Workers, Not Police

Fullerton to Respond to Homelessness, Non-Life-Threatening Emergencies With Social Workers, Not Police

A homeless man pushes a shopping cart through a park in Fullerton, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Julianne Foster

Julianne Foster

7/25/2023

Updated: 7/25/2023

Fullerton became the fourth city in Orange County last week to initiate a social worker response program to address homelessness and non-life-threatening emergencies in the city instead of police.
City officials said the move will lessen the burden on officers and give the homeless quicker access to support services. Other calls targeted for the program include those involving mental health emergencies, domestic violence crises, or juvenile delinquency.
The Fullerton City Council unanimously approved the initiative during their meeting July 18.
Fullerton City Hall, in Fullerton, Calif., on Nov. 17, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Fullerton City Hall, in Fullerton, Calif., on Nov. 17, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee secured $1 million in grant funding for a two-year pilot of the program, according to a July 20 city announcement.
“This [program] will dispatch licensed clinical social workers employed by the Fullerton Police Department into the field as a shift in focus from incarceration to treatment, especially in the case of mental health crises,” Mr. Chaffee said. “The approach aims to reduce the strain on law enforcement resources while fostering positive community relationships and improving outcomes for those in need.”
The funding will cover the costs for two licensed social workers, equipment, and two unmarked police cars.
Regarding those in crises, city officials said the change is a shift from policing and toward utilizing county resources to give specific care, such as crisis response, mediation, and healthcare referrals.
The police station is seen in Fullerton, Calif., on Aug. 20, 2011. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The police station is seen in Fullerton, Calif., on Aug. 20, 2011. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The Fullerton Police Department will be assessing the program and encouraging similar changes for other parts of the county, according to the city.
“Data will be collected during the Program, and we hope the metrics will show that this model is successful and can be expanded or replicated in other cities,” said Fullerton Police Chief Robert Dunn.
Other Orange County cities utilizing a similar model are Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Anaheim, and Buena Park.
The program will also create a Master of Social Work stipend program for students at California State University–Fullerton to encourage careers in public health.
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Julianne Foster

Julianne Foster

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