MA Police Department Starts ‘Clinical Support Unit’

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The Cambridge, Ma., Police Department has a new division, bringing its family justice, social justice, and clinical support units under one umbrella, with the goal of formalizing its approach to serving and protecting vulnerable populations, reports, “It’s a pretty wide scale approach in terms of our support services,” said spokesman Jeremy Warnick about the new Family and Social Justice Section. In the reorganization, the department brought in Dr. James Barrett to serve as the director of a new clinical support unit. The psychologist served as the director of school-based programs at the Cambridge Health Alliance, where he worked alongside the Safety Net Collaborative, the police department’s juvenile diversion program.

About 30 sworn officers and other staff working in the section. Barrett and his colleagues reach out directly to people, particularly members of vulnerable populations, who come into contact with police. “Juveniles, folks who struggle with homelessness, substance abuse, or chronic mental illness,” Barrett said. His unit connects them to support services in the community. Staff members consult with officers on cases to help them understand how certain health conditions can affect a person’s behavior, provide training within the police department, and work on  community prevention programs, going to after-school programs and community centers. Barrett said embedding the clinical support unit in the police department “allows us to be able to respond when the police get that call in the follow up without having to rely on outside agencies to do that work.”

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