Last week, the Bensalem Police Department introduced two new programs designed to further aid the community while also strengthening its relationship with its citizens.
Last Monday, the department launched the Bensalem Police Assisting In Recovery, or BPAIR, for community members seeking treatment for addiction. Under the new program, people can come to the Bensalem Police Station at any day or time. The police will pair them with a “Navigator” to accompany them to a treatment center and offer support and encouragement while waiting for an assessment.
“This is not something we normally do as police. It’s a social role, and we want to help by helping them,” said Lt. William McVey. “Otherwise, they may end up committing crimes or, worse, ODing.”
The navigators are volunteers from the area who are on call during certain times. When a person seeks treatment, the police will call the navigator to the station. After the person is searched, the navigator accompanies them in a taxi to the Gaudenzia treatment center on Bath Road in Bristol.
The navigator then stays with the person to offer encouragement and support while they’re waiting to be assessed. Afterward, All 3’s Taxi Service provides free transportation for the navigator back to headquarters.
“The process isn’t easy. There’s no fast track,” said BPAIR coordinator Ann Marie Erdman. Depending on the time of day and number of beds available when a person arrives, the intake process can take hours. “We can promise someone will keep them encouraged to follow through.”
There are currently 12 navigators being trained. BPAIR is accepting more volunteers so they can have navigators scheduled 24/7 and be able to pair navigators and treatment-seekers by gender whenever possible.
The Bensalem Police Department also announced a Citizens Police Academy to be held weekly over nearly three months this fall. The academy is an opportunity for up to 40 Bensalem residents to get an intimate look at what Bensalem police do on a daily basis and the tools they use to fight and solve crimes.
It’s an idea they’ve had in the works for a few months, and were able to announce it in the wake of recent high-profile, police-related shootings nationwide.
“We did one in 2009, and it’s something we’ve wanted to re-run with everything that’s going on across the country,” said McVey. “We’re fortunate to have support from our community. We want to open up more channels of communication.”
Along with educating citizens on the challenges and risks police face, he continued, “It’s also an opportunity for us to gain valuable input from people who live here.”
Applicants must be Bensalem residents, and can visit the Bensalem Police Department’s website or Facebook page for an application. The academy will hold up to 40 attendees.
For information on BPAIR, volunteering as a navigator or signing up for the Citizens Police Academy, call (215) 633-3700 or visit http://www.bensalempolice.org or http://www.facebook.com/BensalemPoliceDepartment.