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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Police say Excelsior Youth Center calls too often

Graphic by Molly Quinn
Graphic by Molly Quinn

Spokane police are complaining that a treatment center for troubled young people is calling for help too often.

There have been 110 calls per month to police by the Excelsior Youth Center from September 2013 through last Sunday – a total of 1,629 calls for service, police records show. Most of the calls are for runaways, but there are also reports of assaults on staff members or other young people at the treatment center.

“Excelsior is the largest single consumer of law enforcement resources for the Spokane Police Department,” Spokane City Attorney Nancy Isserlis wrote in a letter to the facility.

The longtime director of the private nonprofit facility disputes the city’s numbers.

“There’s a law that says we have to report runaways even if kids get just outside our gates,” said Bob Faltermeyer, executive director of Excelsior. “At this point, we are questioning the validity of the numbers.”

Half of the 50 inpatient clients at Excelsior are being treated for mental health or behavioral issues. The others are being treated for substance abuse. The clients, who range in age from 10 to 21, aren’t there as a result of criminal behavior.

Although runaway calls average 100 per month, police also are concerned about the number of assaults, including youths who punched, scratched, choked or bit staff members and clients who hurt themselves. Police are responding an average of 10 times per month on those types of calls.

Faltermeyer calls physical assaults on campus “part of the nature of the business.”

Excelsior’s leaders have requested police records for reports corresponding to the hundreds of calls so they can cross-reference them with their own incident reports. Those records will help determine “the legitimacy of those numbers,” Faltermeyer said.

Excelsior is a nonprofit that serves about 90 clients at a time, 50 inpatient and 40 outpatient. Excelsior’s budget in 2013 was about $4.5 million – 92 percent of that is state reimbursements. The remaining 8 percent is received through donations.

Faltermeyer has overseen the facility for 32 years.

The executive director is cooperating with police over their concerns related to runaways and assaults, as well as criminal activity in the area possibly committed by young people from the facility. Excelsior is located on 34 acres on West Indian Trail Road.

“We’ve been meeting and discussing a plan of action, and working on agreed-upon steps that are in accordance with the law as well as best practices,” said police spokeswoman Monique Cotton.

Faltermeyer adds, “The dialogue we heard at first was quite confrontational. But we’ve really addressed this issue.”

The letter penned by Isserlis also set off inspections from state regulatory agencies.

The inspection report from the Washington Department of Health concluded that “No deficiencies were identified during the program investigation” and Excelsior wasn’t cited for deficient practices.

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