MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A partnership between The Martinsburg Initiative and the Martinsburg Police Department is leading to some innovative staffing.
On Tuesday, Martinsburg Police Chief George Swartwood announced they will now have access to a full time social worker, Noel Canellas, who will go on some calls with police and will also make referrals for continuing help to community members who have suffered trauma or who have been affected by addiction.
“The goal of this proposal is for The Martinsburg Initiative to increase the number of referrals for services for children and families from the police and provide support for the Handle with Care program,” The chief said in an announcement. It is aimed at decreasing the number of deaths from substance abuse as well as decreasing the number of repeat calls to households where mental health issues are present.
“To provide a listening ear for the police department,” Swartwood explained, “someone that can go as a social worker to intervene on some of these cases, to be of assistance when we’re going time after time after time to the same individuals – to have someone else go along to lend their expertise and let the individuals know what services are out there in the county and the state that they can provide.”
Canellas is uniquely qualified, according to the Chief. “She’s tremendous. She comes from a background steeped in social work and social service with TMI. She’s also got a law enforcement background. She knows what we can and cannot do,” he said of Canellas’s four years in law enforcement.
Chief says Canellas can make “real-time intervention” and follow up with a referral or other information by the next day.
“The city of Martinsburg did not have to spend one dime,” Swartwood said of the new staffing position. The Martinsburg Initiative will be funding the social worker’s salary through grants.
Chief Swartwood said it’s ‘cutting edge’ as the only appointment is the only one like it in the Panhandle. It’s also a game changer in its potential to decrease substance abuse use and substance abuse deaths, as well as repetitive calls for service.
Lastly, as part of the mission of TMI, Swartwood hopes the addition of the extra help will “reduce the traumatic impact of childhood trauma.”
The appointment is awaiting the signing of a formal MOU and waivers, but Swartwood said he had the blessings of city officials to make the announcement on Panhandle Live Tuesday WEPM and WCST, the Panhandle News Network.  Panhandle Live is  heard weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.