Bristol Township Pairs Social-Service Experts with Police, Creating ‘Co-Responders’ to Trouble

woman in a chair
Image via Anthony Tran at Unsplash.
Bristol Township joins other Bucks County regions in a program designed to handle cases involving mental illness and similar challenges with a social services response rather than a law enforcement one.

To help Bristol Township police officers in situations in which social services may represent a better resolution to an issue than incarceration, the borough is joining other local communities using a “co-responder” program. A Lower Bucks Times report explained its intent.

The Bristol initiative has paired Fetiye “Tia” Kazee and Keevon Johnson aside the men and women in blue. They provide counsel for incidents in which residents whose emotional statuses can shade interactions with law enforcement. The program uses interventional approaches with the aged, those involving substances abuse, and residents with mental health issues.

The Bristol program mirrors others in municipalities now employed locally in Bensalem, Falls, and Middletown Townships — as well as nearby Bethlehem.

In Bensalem, the partnerships —in place since Dec. 2020 — have already yielded admirable results: Of the cases that might have ended with an arrest, more than half were resolved by social-service counsel. In addition, police officers’ time investments in handling these cases have declined, freeing them for more dire matters.

“We are so fortunate to partner with police leadership to bring our co-responder initiative to three more communities,” said Rachael Neff, director of the county’s Human Services Division. “Keevon and Tia are excellent additions to our ever-growing human services co-responder team.”

More on this co-responder program in Bristol is at the Lower Bucks Times.