An agreement between Aspire Health Partners and the Winter Garden Police Department will provide aid for service calls that require long-term solutions.
The agreement, approved during the Aug. 12 City Commission meeting, allows $89,259 for a full-time case manager who will follow-up on calls deemed appropriate for further assistance.
“This is a hand-off person; they’re not going to be doing police work,” Winter Garden City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said. “For instance, they could deal with people that might have long term homelessness issues, ongoing spousal-abuse relationships, perhaps even with juvenile delinquency. … They can work to find different organizations and ways to help. It’s to provide assistance for our police officers to free them from following up with that type of work.”
“We’re built to handle the crisis at the moment, but what causes us to be summoned might have been caused by a whole myriad of events that we can’t solve at the end of a shift,” Winter Garden Police Chief Steve Graham said. “The majority of police calls — and I’ve been doing this for quite a while — are usually service-call related. What I mean is there’s not a crime involved; they just need guidance.”
Funds for the position already had been approved for the city’s budget, but the job originally was to be filled by a city employee. However, when the job responsibilities were taken into consideration, city leaders realized candidates would require a more specialized skillset.
“This is the type of position that has to be networked to all the resources that can help accomplish their job,” Graham said. “The case manager will have the tools and resources backed by Aspire to provide a longer-term solution.”
Aspire Health Partners currently provides critical incident training for Winter Garden officers and assistance for individuals who have been Baker Acted. That relationship made Aspire the natural choice to fill the position.
The case manager will be hired by Aspire Health Partners as a member of their staff and report to work at the Winter Garden Police Station, where office space will be provided. But the job description will not involve accompanying police officers to investigate calls.
“Dispatch does their best to determine what resources are needed for service,” Graham said. “But there’s always that wild card. … You get there and the person’s just a little over the top and they become violent. And it could be a tragic result if a civilian is present at that time.”
The responding officers will make an in-person assessment of the situation and refer the call to the case manager if services are required.
“They’ll make follow-up calls, they can complete assessments either telephonically, via Telehealth or in person with an individual and then they’ll be able to, based on the results of that assessment, provide referrals into the appropriate levels of care,” Aspire Health Partners Vice President of Patient Access Erin Martin said of the case manager duties. “They can identify what the needs really are and then be able to make those appropriate referrals and appointments and connect them to the services that they need.”
Officers can, if necessary, accompany the case manager to in-person meetings.
Martin said the position is open to current Aspire employees as well as the general public.
Effective solutions for those in need also should translate to time saved for police officers who would normally have to provide follow-up and revisit the same individuals for the same reasons.
“We’ll get staff input on how they think the position is helping us, but if we can only go to a house once instead of six times a year, that’s a savings,” Graham said. “Some of the things may be hard to quantify, but I think it’s a better service for our citizens.”