Lansing Police Department’s only social worker speaks about her role

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Jan Bidwell has a police scanner strapped to her belt and wears a bulletproof vest. But, she isn’t an officer.

“I have the best job in the world. It’s absolutely amazing,” Bidwell said.

Her job? The Lansing Police Department’s social worker. She’s their first and only social worker.

“It’s an immense honor to be able to do this job,” Bidwell said.

No workday is the same for Bidwell, because she never knows who will need her help.

“I will get texts, emails, calls from officers from dispatch. I will hear my name on the radio, ‘SW-1.’ Sometimes people call me. They go on the website and see there’s a social worker so they’ll call me,” Bidwell said.

She’s called about a variety of things.

“There are mental health crisis, substance abuse crisis, over doses, homeless crisis,” Bidwell said.

But no matter what she’s called for, she’s always ready to help.

“My job is to try to help people get to the right resources, talk to the providers, help the providers understand what’s happening when it’s a matter of life and death…when it’s a matter of health and safety,” Bidwell said.

She’s been with the police department for almost two years now.

“The most difficult part is that I can’t get to everyone,” Bidwell said.

She said the pandemic made it even more difficult to reach those who need help.

“Just far too many calls of mental health emergencies,” Bidwell said.

But she does the work because for her, it’s more than just a job.

“I am humbled every day by every conversation I have with a citizen who allows me to understand what’s happening for them and to assist them in any way they need,” Bidwell said.

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