St. Paul police training social workers to help handle crisis calls

The St. Paul Police Department’s Mental Health Unit is expanding its reach.

The unit is training social workers to help other police departments around the Twin Cities help handle crisis calls.

Sgt. Jamie Sipes is the coordinator of the Community Outreach and Stabilization Unit (COAST).

"Establishment of this program was really in response of the community saying ‘We want a change response to crisis-related calls for services," Sipes said.

The COAST Unit is training social workers to join the Maplewood, Blaine and Coon Rapids police departments to help in handling mental health crisis calls.

"We look at a crisis through one lens and it’s important to have that social work lens with us and talk about other options that a police officer may not be thinking about," Sipes said. "With a social worker there we can build a safety plan which is not within the expertise of a police officer but is with a social worker. I think it’s part of the future of law enforcement to partner with our social service agencies to build a better response to a crisis."