North King County cities will expand mental health response to 911 calls

King County’s crisis response system is a patchwork, but it is changing rapidly. Five cities in North King County have banded together to add mental health professionals to their police departments. Soon, the program plans to offer these responders seven days a week, including teams that can answer calls without law enforcement.

“Responsive participant” is a term you hear increasingly around King County. It’s understandable Police or firefighters work with mental health professionals To handle certain calls.

Like a recent one in Bothell, where a mother called the police because her teenage son was running away from home. Bothell Police Officer Gina Shannon comes outside after talking to the family at their home.

Shannon said, “Son apparently dealt with the police for five days in a row, so he wasn’t too excited about me being there and didn’t want to talk today. So Svetlana will follow up.”

Svetlana Kirilova is a mental health professional who works at North Sound RADAR Navigator. Five North King County police departments have started the initiative together to fund jobs like hers. Kirilova accompanies the police on calls from people in distress, such as an elderly woman who repeatedly calls 911, saying that she feels threatened.

Kirilova found out that the living conditions of women are deteriorating.

“She was sleeping between the sofa and the coffee table. She wasn’t eating properly,” Kirilova said.

Kirilova spent months contacting the woman’s family and eventually helped her move to an assisted living facility.

There are some special things about RADAR Navigator. One is that navigators write response plans to officers about the best way to communicate with people.

Program director Brook Buettner said they are also warning officers of what’s going on Not to say.

“Sometimes it can be really simple things like, ‘Don’t refer to your husband’s father as a father,'” she said. This will make the young man very angry and may escalate the behavior.”

These notes are available to officers through the in-vehicle computer system across the five partner cities of North King County – Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Bothell, Kenmore and Kirkland.

The program faces some limitations. Currently, mental health navigators are only available during certain hours. They must be accompanied by a police officer.

But Buettner says more funding next year will allow navigators to expand into evenings and weekends, answering some calls in teams without police officers.

Bothell resident Jenny Marker says she would welcome this development. Marker says in recent years she’s often called 911 to deal with trauma and sensory overload while raising her young children. However, she was afraid of the police and did not trust them.

Marker said, “Although I appreciate and respect their role, I deeply fear them and their power. So, if they could be excluded from the field of mental health, I think it would be better for everyone.”

Two years ago, a police officer Bothell brought a mental health navigator to see Marker. Help the navigator meet immediate needs, such as getting enough food and diapers for the Marker family, then connect them to mental health resources.

“I have to tell you,” she said, “my life has changed drastically to get better radar software. Because I don’t call 911 anymore. I don’t.”

Now she said she would call the mental health hotline 988 if she needed to talk to someone. She is a member of the community advisory board for the Radar Program.

Bothell Police Chief Ken Siberlich helped launch the Navigator programme. He said his officers love it and it’s a game-changer for the administration. But the big problem is that there is almost nowhere to take people while they are in crisis, besides prison and emergency rooms.

He said: “It’s like there are nurses and doctors but there are no hospitals. The fact of the matter is that we need places to move between people to me. “

However, they have recently received some good news on this front. State funding approved A brand new 16-bed facility for crisis stabilization In North King County, in addition to located in Seattle.

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