$500k grant from DOJ to help reduce use of police force in North King County

North Sound RADAR Program responds to calls within Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell and Kirkland.

The Department of Justice recently awarded the city of Shoreline, in partnership with Center for Human Services and the North Sound RADAR Navigator Program, a $500,000 grant.

RADAR, which stands for Response, De-escalation And Referral, was started in Shoreline in 2017 with the purpose of reducing police force when responding to behavioral health and developmental disability calls.

Within the RADAR program, a specially trained police officer is paired with a mental health professional, or navigator. The program responds to calls within Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell and Kirkland.

“When navigators encounter a person in crisis, there are a lot of barriers to getting them into the system of care,” said RADAR Program Manager Brook Buettner. “They end up having to wait for care, and a lot of times when we encounter a person in crisis, they’re ready for care right now.”

Buettner said that if those who need services cannot quickly access them, then they end up not receiving proper care, if any care. On average, Buettner has been seeing month-long wait lists for those who require mental health assistance.

“Through this grant, they’re going to create a position for someone that will be available to do our intakes,” said Buettner. “So, to receive people that the navigators bring in that are in crisis, and then do their initial assessments, figure out what their care needs are, and then find long-term connections to care in the moment.”

The funding will allow for a greater pathway toward treatment for people experiencing crises. According to Buettner, the newly funded treatment navigator position will also assist callers with obtaining medical insurance, which is a limiting factor when it comes to seeking treatment. The treatment navigator will be positioned at the Center for Human Services in Shoreline.

On top of the grant funding the full-time Treatment Navigator position, it will also fund half of a Navigator position in the field of law enforcement, law enforcement time, and program manager time.

“It’s really hard to get a federal grant, so I think it’s an important endorsement of the model—the fact that it’s interjurisdictional and the fact that we partner,” said Buettner.

Currently the program is funded by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Mental Health Field Response Team Program, with funding from the King County Mental Illness Drug Dependency Sales Tax Levy and the State of Washington’s Trueblood Settlement.

“I’ve been asking for the cities to chip into the general fund,” said Buettner. “The initial program started with county money and so initially, it was paid for, and it was a way to demonstrate to the cities the value of doing this.”

According to Buettner, Bothell is the only city out of the five to fund the program and is paying for one out of the three full-time navigator positions through the public safety levy.

“We are not nearly at where we need at capacity with RADAR Navigators out in the field, and I see this funding [DOJ grant] as additive,” said Buettner. “I’m hoping to really make it clear that this funding coming in is to grow the program, not to take the place of the existing funding.”

RADAR’s goal is to accumulate funding for a total of eight full-time navigator positions, and current funding channels cover three and a half positions. RADAR is actively looking to fill three additional full-time navigator positions and will be accepting applications on a rolling basis.

“Getting a federal grant is a big deal, and it’s a great endorsement of the model,” said Buettner. “We’re hopeful that the cities will kick in in the future and help the program bridge the gap from crisis to care.”

For more information on the North Sound RADAR Program, visit https://www.radarnavigatorprogram.org/