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Porter County Council looking to add police social worker with opioid settlement money


Porter County Council members would like to use some of the county's opioid settlement money for a new police social worker.

Council President Jeremy Rivas says he'd like Sheriff Jeff Balon to add a new position, similar to what he did at the Valparaiso Police Department when he was police chief. "To me, the problem still exists," Rivas said during Tuesday's council meeting, "and in my opinion, anyways, the best way to begin to tackle this is to deploy some of this money at the ground level, which would be, in my opinion, with the sheriff and maybe mimic what he did in Valpo."

Balon said the new position would be known as a police resources and outreach (PRO) coordinator, and the individual would have a master's degree in social work. The sheriff told council members that Valparaiso officers came to see the value of having a social worker, even if they were skeptical at first.

"In Valpo's case, you're looking at someone who makes contact with 70 to 100 people a month from all different needs. So there's a definite need for that," Balon added.

Rivas believes the settlement money should be able to sustain the position for several years. The county could also coordinate with cities and towns to free up their share of the money for other uses. Other priorities include a separate county care coordinator, more juvenile resources and more inpatient treatment.

More discussions are expected in the coming weeks.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.