Mental Health Field Response Teams Awarded Additional Grant Funding to Expand Programs
This month, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) awarded the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office’s, in partnership with the Spokane Police Department, a $698,750 grant to continue, and expand their Mental Health Field Response Team capabilities. The grant was funded by the Washington State Legislature.
The WASPC funds allow the Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to continue deploying their co-responder teams, comprised of a Frontier Behavioral Health Mental Health Professional partnered with an Officer/Deputy. The grant also expands current programs by adding additional Mental Health Field Response Teams to a total of two Sheriff’s Office Deputies, two Spokane PD Officers, and four Frontier Behavioral Health Mental Health Professionals. The grant also allows a supervisor to oversee and coordinate the co-responder teams as one unit. This coordination will allow them to quickly respond to calls involving people in crisis anywhere inside Spokane County. This increased presence and flexibility enables these highly trained and specialized teams to respond to mental health-related calls for service when needed, despite boundaries.
This WASPC Grant allows the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office to continue their already established and successful Mental Health Field Response Teams. It also enables both agencies to work together and expand their programs to address our regional mental health crisis.
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 funds will help effectively focus our limited mental health resources by sending Mental Health Field Response Teams directly to people who are in crisis.
Frontier Behavioral Health Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Thomas said, "These additional resources from WASPC will further our partnership with the Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and our combined efforts to use resources and services within our community for individuals with behavioral health needs.”
Mental health professionals working in the field partnered with law enforcement promotes positive interactions between the public and law enforcement, deescalates volatile situations potentially reducing use of force incidents, and improves public safety. The strength of these co-responder teams is their ability to spend more time resolving a crisis and connecting persons in crisis with appropriate services based on their needs. This ability increases the level of service during all levels of crisis and returns patrol Officers/Deputies to service as quickly as possible.
Sheriff Knezovich stated, “We are thankful WASPC awarded us this grant. It will allow us to continue deploying our existing and effective Mental Health Team and expand upon it. This is an important step in addressing the serious mental health crisis our community faces.”
"Law enforcement continues to often be the first responders to those suffering a mental health crisis. This partnership, strengthened through the new grant award, will enhance our officers' and deputies' ability to bring focused and helpful solutions to those in need.”, said Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl.
On September 10, 2019, the Spokane County Board of County Commissioners signed the resolution accepting the WASPC grant, as passed down from the State of Washington, for the Spokane Regional Mental Health Team Project.
Mary Kuney, Chair of the Spokane County Board of Commissioners, stated, “This is an innovative program that responds to some of our most in-need individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis in our community. The benefits realized by our current deployed units have shown a tremendous value. The Board supported the proposal, because it will expand the current co-deployed teams by adding more mental health professionals and law enforcement officers through funds under the WASPC grant. I am excited that this funding has been approved, because now the regional teams will have the additional resources they need to make a greater impact in our community.”