MILFORD — Following a successful four months with a part-time behavioral health specialist, the Milford Police Department received approval from City Council to hire one full time.
The motion passed unanimously Monday, with Councilman Doug Morrow absent.
A part-time mental health professional, contracted through the nonprofit Partners in Public Safety Solutions Inc., has been working about 25 hours a week with the police department since March 1.
Council approved Chief Kenneth Brown’s request to fund the full-time post and continue to fund the part-time spot.
“While we see that (the part-time position) is very beneficial to us, one of the problems is they’re just not (on duty) enough,” Chief Brown said.
He added that having both a full-time and a part-time position will “go a long way” for the department.
Chief Brown said the full-time employee also will be responsible for victim advocacy and aiding in grant applications for more behavioral health support.
The newly created job will have a salary of $85,000 annually, plus full benefits. Including those benefits, the cost of funding the post could be upward of $132,000 annually, according to city Finance Director Lou Vitola.
Mr. Vitola said the exact cost will depend on the employee’s health care selection — full family care would cost more versus a single person.
American Rescue Plan Act money could be put toward funding most of the position — “if not all of it,” Chief Brown said — for two years.
Councilman Andrew Fulton asked if it would be more cost-effective to fund multiple part-time positions versus one full time and one part time.
In response, Chief Brown said it can be difficult to find qualified candidates for part-time slots. He added that most people looking for a new job in the mental health field are coming from full-time positions.
Additionally, Chief Brown said part-time employees would not be able to fulfill the victim advocacy work and grant assistance he’d like to see with a full-timer.
Councilman Todd Culotta said adding a mental health unit to the police department has been a priority for council. He added that members should look into funding the position for the long term but was supportive of using ARPA monies in the meantime.
Councilman Jason James shared an anecdote detailing the benefits a full-time behavioral health professional could have for the police department.
He said he recently witnessed multiple police officers responding to a person who needed mental health support in Bicentennial Park. He noted a lot of resources were taken away from stopping crime and improving safety elsewhere in the city, while the officers waited on a counselor to arrive from New Castle County on a busy Friday night.
The officers told Councilman James that the situation could have been handled with more efficiency had there been a counselor on staff who arrived with the initial responders, he said.