LANSING, Mich (WLNS)– Lansing has a number of problems that need professional help but not necessarily a police officer.
That’s why in 2019, the city hired the first social worker employed by a police department anywhere in the state. But two and a half years later, she’s still the only social worker on staff.
There’s a need for more, especially with incidents like what happened on Sunday.
“I was like ‘oh my gosh’ what is happening right now,” said Lansing resident Amanda Helfer.
That was Helfer’s first thought after a man exposed himself in front of her and her children. It happened late Sunday afternoon at the corner of Grand and Oakland avenues.
“All frontal showing, shaking it, dancing, doing all kinds of stuff,” Helfer said.
Helfer called 9-1-1 to make sure everyone would be safe.
The man left before police got there, but officers who responded recognized his description and behavior.
They tracked him down not far from the scene and he was arrested. Lansing Police Department social worker Jan Bidwell says incidents happen more than people might think.
“It’s really heartbreaking that we’re seeing people suffer to this degree,” Bidwell said.
Bidwell says this is an example of someone with a mental health disorder. Helping police deal with this kind of case is what she was hired to do.
“There was no protocol set up,” Bidwell said. “They said we need help with homeless citizens, mentally ill citizens and with addiction.”
And more could be on the way. The city added another social worker to the 2021-2022 budget. It doesn’t stop there.
“We also have a proposal with earmarked funds with representative Slotkin for an LCAT team (Lansing Crisis Assessment Team) which would be three vans each with a social worker, plain clothes officer and a medic,” Bidwell said.
As for Helfer, she says she plans to press charges hoping it might get the man in front of mental health professionals.
“If it takes us to help everybody including the city,” Helfer said, “then that’s what we will do.”