The Burlington Police Department now has a dedicated employee to help support residents with mental illness.
Karen DiRienzo, a veteran social worker and Burlington resident, recently began work as a part-time mental health clinician. Her hiring is part of a Burlington Mental Health Initiative announced last year.
The initiative, funded with a $100,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation, also includes training for department members to identify people suffering from mental health disorders and de-escalate situations involving them.
DiRienzo, whose position was funded for 2½ years, has begun establishing relationships with a variety of community organizations and town departments to help prepare for a more coordinated response among those agencies and police.
She will ultimately be positioned as a resource to respond with police officers to mental health related calls, bridging the gap between first responders and clinicians who may come into contact with those individuals later, according to officials.
“I was thrilled to see a focus on mental health come to Burlington,” DiRienzo said in a statement. “The pairing of mental health care and law enforcement really resonated with me.”
The Cummings Foundation grant came through the organization’s annual $100K for 100 grant program.John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.