FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Mental Health Field Response Grant Awarded to Spokane County Sheriff’s Office
SPOKANE COUNTY, February 21, 2019 – The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office was recently awarded an $89,000 grant to expand its mental health field response capabilities. The funds were awarded by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) as a part of a $1 million program established by the Washington State Legislature. A total of eight grants were awarded to law enforcement agencies in both western and eastern Washington.
The funds will help the Spokane County Sherriff’s Office expand mental health field response capabilities, by utilizing mental health professionals to professionally, humanely, and safely respond to encounters involving persons with mental health issues.
Mental health is the number one public safety issue facing Washington. People experiencing mental health crises are not necessarily committing crimes, but communities continue to rely on law enforcement to respond to these mental health crises. These grant funds will help the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office focus on sending help where help is needed. Mental health professionals will be working in the field alongside law enforcement. This partnership promotes positive interactions between the public and law enforcement, thereby reducing the possibility of the need to use force, which improves public safety overall. Instead of booking someone into jail or involuntary detaining a person in need and releasing them to a hospital, they might be connected with available services or diverted to a more appropriate facility.
WASPC, founded in 1963, consists of executive and top management personnel from law enforcement agencies across the state. With more than 900 members it includes the 39 elected county sheriffs, and 240 police chiefs, as well as the Washington State Patrol, the Washington Department of Corrections, and representatives of several federal agencies.
Chair of the Spokane County Board of Commissioners, Mary Kuney stated, “While we have a long way to go in addressing the needs of those encountering situations stemming from a mental health crisis, this is great progress. This program is the latest example of the advancements being made in this community in breaking down the stigmas associated with mental health. The partnership between the Sheriff’s office and Frontier Behavioral Health is already having positive effects for those in need and for our criminal justice system.”
Sheriff Knezovich, past president of WASPC, stated, “Our community continues to face a mental health crisis and this program, which we hope to expand, is a good start. Jail, or trying to place involuntary committals in a hospital with limited space, is not efficient; it doesn’t address the person’s needs. This partnership gives us options; it allows us to efficiently and effectively help those in crisis.”
After being awarded the grant funds, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with Frontier Behavioral Health, successfully deployed a co-responder team beginning November 28, 2018. This team is a partnership consisting of Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Moman, trained in crisis intervention, and Mental Health Professional Holly Keller, a master’s level clinician. They respond to potential mental health-related calls in the same patrol vehicle and work peak hours to best meet the needs of those in crisis. The team supports both unincorporated Spokane County and our contract cities such as the City of Spokane Valley.
It can often take hours for a Deputy to get a bed at local hospitals for a person in crisis who has been involuntarily detained for being a danger to themselves or others. The co-responder team averages 12 minutes at emergency departments. The strength of this team is its ability to spend more time resolving a crisis and when possible, connect persons who are in crisis with appropriate services based on their needs. The team’s goal is to increase the level of service during all levels of crisis while returning patrol Deputies to service as quickly as possible.
Data collected as of 01/31/2019:
- Total Contacts: 194
- Diversions: 173 (any result not leading to arrest or involuntary emergency room visit)
- Grant Contacts Arrested: 1
- Involuntary hospital evaluations: 20
The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to increasing the quality of services it provides to our community through enhancing mental health crisis responses.