The Allentown Police Department is adding a second Community Intervention Specialist to its ranks, a civilian who arranges services, including mental health services for those whose issues may result in police being summoned.
Karina Antigua has been hired as a second Community Intervention Specialist, to work with Sarina Vas, within the Allentown Police Department.
The Police Department Mental Health Liaison Program (PDMHL) is a collaborative effort administered and supervised by Pinebrook Family Answers, with the goal of alleviating barriers that patrol officers encounter when responding to calls that involve people with mental illness and/or substance abuse.
“This cross-agency approach decreases the need for law enforcement to respond to people with mental health and substance abuse issues.” said Bill Vogler, CEO of Pinebrook Family Answers “The need and success of the PDMHL program is remarkable – 32% increase in people helped over the past three years, with a 98.8% success rate of avoiding incarceration.”
“This hiring addresses a commitment made in the 2021 budget to increase our community intervention capabilities,” said Mayor Ray O’Connell. “We recognize that a person trained to assist those persons with mental health needs can be very helpful to patrol officers answering calls in some situations.”
Community Intervention Specialists work closely with Police Departments to intervene in situations where people with mental illness encounter the police, to refer individuals to the appropriate services, reduce recidivism, and to promote the Recovery Model.
Allentown Police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. said “The Allentown Police Department is committed to expanding our services in the area of responding to calls for service related to mental health. The ongoing relationship with Pinebrook Family Answers and Lehigh County is one that has shown positive results. I feel strongly about this program and that is why I included this position in my 2021 budget. I am appreciative of the support of Mayor O’Connell and City Council for this continued initiative and I look forward to studying the results of these increased services to our residents.”
Ms. Antigua is the third CIS Pinebrook has placed in police departments in Lehigh County. “Ms. Antigua’s years of clinical experience as well as her fluency in Spanish will be an asset in connecting with people in the Lehigh Valley and understanding the unique needs of different individuals in our community,” Vogler said.
The PDMHL program began April 2017 with two clients, steadily climbed to twelve clients per month in 2018 and now averages thirty clients per month. The program served 110 people in 2018-2019 and 161 people in 2019-2020. 1,185 hours of direct-care service was provided from July ‘19 through June ‘20. With the hiring of Karina Antigua, the program expects to double the number of people served in Allentown.
Community Intervention Specialists assist Lehigh Valley residents in their struggles with mental health and/or substance abuse problems by:
- Responding immediately to mental health 911 calls when they arise.
- Screening people for mental health problems; both in the community and in the home.
- Helping people gain access to mental health services.
- Intervening with people who have repeated involvement with law enforcement.
- Working collaboratively with mental health providers, clients, and advocates to provide individual response plans and follow up.
- Providing consultation and education about mental health to police departments.
ABOUT PINEBROOK FAMILY ANSWERS
Pinebrook Family Answers’ mission is to transform lives across generations by nurturing healthy children and strong families, supporting seniors, empowering individuals, and strengthening the Greater Lehigh Valley. Our goal is to help all types of families become healthy and flourish by providing services and programs to overcome challenges and succeed in daily living. Our focus is supporting children, adults, and seniors to make them healthy, strong, and self-sufficient. Last year, Pinebrook Family Answers served over 5,500 clients within its 22 programs. For more information, www.pbfalv.org.