One proposal seeks to fund new social workers.
June 23, 2020
WORCESTER, MA — Amid a major push to cut funding for Worcester police, city officials are considering new efforts to boost public safety by hiring social workers — a cue taken from a program implemented in Framingham almost 20 years ago.
Last week, the Worcester Council passed the city's fiscal 2021 budget, and in it a $254,000 increase for the police department. Activists with the group Defund WPD have been pushing the Councilors to cut that increase.
On Thursday, At-large Councilor Khyrstian King filed a request to reconsider the budget vote. The reconsideration passed unanimously on Tuesday, allowing King to propose that the city reroute $257,000 from police and other budgets to fund three new items: a jail diversion social worker position, a caseworker for health and human services, and a cultural hub for Worcester's Black community.
King's idea for the jail diversion social worker comes from the Advocates' Pre-Arrest Co-Response Program that began in Framingham in 2003. The program embeds social workers with police to divert people away from jail and into services to treat mental health, addiction, and other problems. The co-response program has since spread to more than a dozen MetroWest communities from Natick to Marlborough.