The Naperville Police Department has had social service professionals on staff for over 20 years. They’re an essential part of the team, but not always in the public eye.
Social Services Unit
The Social Services Unit, which is a team of four licensed clinicians under the NPD’s Community Services Division, assists in cases of domestic violence, mental illness, child/elder abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse and youth and family issues.
“I think a lot of what we do has been adapting to the community needs,” said Naperville Police Department Police Counselor Eirene Boulougouris. “What was working 20-25 years ago would not work right now. At that time I know our department started with one clinician [and] one social worker. And added a second, third, and a fourth now.”
A Safer Naper
This month the department’s “A Safer Naper” is recognizing the all-female Social Services Unit that provides counseling and referrals, and assists with mental health assessments, among many other things. They’re able to follow up to help people through what can be the toughest of times.
Naperville Police Department Victim Advocate Gianna Trombino said last year she was assigned about 600 cases, each varying in length.
“In some cases it’s a one minute phone call they’re not interested and that’s that,” said Trombino. “In some cases maybe we’re in contact for a few weeks until they get to that step whatever it is what they’re looking for.”
At times the Social Services Unit is on the scene of a case, and other times they help community members who inquire about their services.
“When you’re talking about police social work or police counseling it’s also the walk-ins coming into the department or the community contacts and you answer a question,” said Ali Smith a social worker for the NPD. “There are hundreds and hundreds of people that we are able to service.”
In addition to helping with cases, the group also helps community members with severe mental illness. It also offers in-house support to sworn or non-sworn personnel with the NPD, helping them work through some of the harder emotional aspects that come with the nature of the job.
“It’s important to know our officers are human before they’re officers so they hurt like each and everyone of us,” said Boulougouris. “Being able to provide them that support is probably the most rewarding part of my job.”
The unit collaborates with medical, religious, and not-for-profit groups to provide services for the Naperville community.
“There’s constant development in change to best meet the needs of the community,” said Naperville Police Department Social Worker Jamie Horner. “I think there will always be various needs because we’re going to see different themes in in the community and different statistics whether or not it’s crime or social service needs.”
The NPD is releasing four short videos about their Social Services Unit on their social media featuring their social workers and counselors, so community members can learn more about them and what they do. The first, focused on Smith, is already up and available to view.
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.
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