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Success Story: Columbia Heights Embedded Social Worker Program

January 5, 2023

Communities across the Twin Cities, and across the country, are having conversations about how best to balance public safety with the needs of individuals in distress. More than merely talking about how police and social workers could work together, Canvas Health partnered with the Columbia Heights (Minnesota) Police Department to make it a reality. The Embedded Social Worker program teams law enforcement officers with social workers and mental health professionals to respond collaboratively when police are called.

Canvas Health Embedded Social Workers

Infographic Columbia Heights Embedded Social Work


Captain Erik Johnston of the Columbia Heights Police Department spoke about this partnership at our Valley Vine & Harvest Throwdown event in October.

“From the start, Canvas Health was an obvious partner for this program. Not only were they currently providing high-quality after-hours crisis response and support to our community, but they also quickly embraced the partnership and demonstrated the knowledge and passion to make a program like this work.

In the first 6 months of the program, 106 of 107 co-responses by social workers and police were resolved without the use of force. 103 of those situations were resolved without needing a transport hold.

During this same period, the social worker provided services to 183 clients and had nearly 800 interactions. Many of those contacts would previously have been handled by police. It has been clear to us that there is an unmet need for this type of service in our community. Additionally, both the officers and the mental health professionals are learning from each other and improving how we deliver our co-responder services to the community.”


Expanding the program to increase its impact

The goal is to expand this program to more police departments across the Greater Twin Cities area. In November, Canvas Health’s law enforcement embedded social workers, Eileen Crosby and Erin Buller, were proud to participate in the Criminal Justice Mental Health Summit hosted by Eckberg Lammers, P.C. Eileen and Erin worked directly with the Columbia Heights Police Department and participated in an “Embedded Social Workers in Police Departments” panel discussion with other agencies and social workers.

“I feel confident in saying at this point that our program has been a success, and that would not have been possible without the strong and generous support of Canvas Health, and my hope is for a long-lasting partnership going forward.” – Capt. Erik Johnston, Columbia Height Police Department

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