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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane law enforcement agencies will add four more mental health teams

A grant will help Spokane law enforcement boost its efforts to help keep people having mental health crises out of jail and emergency rooms.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Department and the Spokane Police Department will add four “co-deploy” mental health teams between their agencies after the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs awarded the agencies a grant worth nearly $700,000.

The association received $2 million in funds for mental health field response programs from the Washington Legislature and awarded nine different regions and departments grants on Aug. 28.

The Spokane grant will nearly double the size of the region’s co-deploy mental health teams. Currently there are five teams, four at the police department and one at the sheriff’s department.

The Spokane co-deploy mental health teams have one mental health clinician from Frontier Behavioral Health and one law enforcement officer who help divert those having mental health crises away from jail and emergency departments.

The model shows efficacy so far, said Jeff Thomas, CEO of Frontier Behavioral Health. The sheriff’s co-deploy team diverted 89 people from the emergency department and 32 from jail in its first seven months. Thomas said the relationships and willingness of law enforcement agencies to partner with mental health care providers is crucial to the effectiveness of the co-deploy teams.

“I think the other piece that’s really critical is it necessitates having strong partnerships and trust in those partnerships,” Thomas said.

“There’s got to be commitment on the part of law enforcement and mental health and payers to invest in these models, and we’re so fortunate that we do have – through the leadership of sheriff’s department, SPD and our fire department – the willingness to step out and try it.”

Law enforcement agencies in Spokane and Wenatchee are the only two regions in Eastern Washington to receive the grant funding from the association.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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