Photo by Visitor7/Wikimedia

Photo by Visitor7/Wikimedia

Program before lawmakers could strengthen mental health crisis response

The aim is to provide those in need with services instead of jail time.

A proposed pilot project would partner mental health professionals and local law enforcement officers on calls that involve a mental health crisis.

HB 2892 would create a grant from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to fund services from mental health professionals who would either go with police officers on calls or respond to scenes when requested. The bill was voted out of the House Public Safety Committee and advanced to the rules committee on last Thursday, Feb. 1.

“Our current system works, but I think it is a system that can be expensive and at times ineffective,” said Representative John Lovick, D-Snohomish, the bill’s prime sponsor. “Jails are not designed to be mental health treatment centers.”

Lovick said he brought the bill before lawmakers when he saw a similar program in action in Edmonds while he was volunteering at the Edmonds Gospel Mission. He said having a mental health professional on the scene can better serve someone in a crisis.

The legislation’s aim, he said, is to improve the initial law enforcement interaction with people in a crisis, increase bystander and officer safety, and connect those who need it with mental health services instead of jail.

“Somebody in a mental health crisis is not in and of themselves, by virtue of their crisis, committing a crime, but our system continues to send law enforcement officers as its only response,” said James McMahan, policy director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

He said that the bill would require the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to provide a study of the grant program’s effectiveness to make sure it works. He said that could establish a foundation on which to build future response teams.

“We see cities as policy innovation mechanisms, as agents,” said Logan Bahr, government relations advocate for the Association of Washington Cities. “This is a great marriage between the state and locals in responding to the needs of our communities.”

Partnerships with mental health professionals have already proven effective. McMahan explained two working models: the Seattle model, in which a professional is in the passenger seat of a patrol vehicle, and the navigator model, in which a mental health professional goes to a scene on their own upon request of an officer who is already there.

“The most critical point in this program is to have the mental health professional there on scene in that moment of crisis,” McMahan said.

Karl Hatton, regional emergency communications director for Jefferson and Clallam counties, said 911 operators should be included in the program because they have the best sense of who needs to respond to a scene. He also said that ongoing training for 911 operators should be included in the bill’s language so they know how to best respond as the first point of contact.

Lovick said he is seeking at least a couple million dollars for the grant and hopes to implement at least one project on each side of the state. The funding could come from a small surcharge on traffic citations. However, the funding won’t be determined until the bill reaches the appropriations committee.

The bill was introduced late in the session, but Lovick is optimistic that it will pass this year.

“If we do it, it’s going to be done this year,” he said. “This is really a time to bring the community together to see what we can do to work with the vulnerable population.”

Chair of the House Public Safety Committee Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, sponsored a similar bill, HB 2234, which has a companion bill in the Senate, SB 5970, sponsored by Senator David Frockt, D-Kenmore.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Northwest

AG Ferguson wants to require law enforcement statewide to report all uses of deadly force

Report to Legislature recommends centralized, easily accessible statewide website on incidents

Stay local with summer travel plans | State Department of Health

Officials want people to limit cross-state travel to help slow spread of COVID-19

Public and private universities, colleges, technical schools, apprenticeship programs and similar schools and programs may resume general instruction, including in-person classes and lectures, starting Aug. 1. Pictured: The University of Washington-Bothell campus. File photo
Universities and colleges may reopen in fall, governor says

His order requires masks and physical distancing, among other measures, to help prevent infections.

A new measure from the King County Council could increase flexibility for businesses in rural areas of King County. File photo
County measure would increase flexibility for businesses in rural areas

Staff report Legislation the King County Council passed June 23 could lead… Continue reading

Changes coming to Port of Seattle Police Department

Hiring practices, commitment to diversity, use of force

During a recent training, South King Fire and Rescue members at Station 62 wear personal protective gear, which includes face masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns. Courtesy photo
Governor orders statewide use of face coverings in public

Jay Inslee says that until there is a vaccine, it’s the best weapon to stop the spread of COVID-19.

File photo/pexels.com
Renton man pleads guilty to one of state’s largest workers’ comp scams

The delivery driver was still working under his own name while receiving L&I pension, and owes the state almost $340,000.

Courtesy image
Task force will tackle issues of racial justice, police reform

Inslee names civil rights activists, pastors, and cops to panel that may forge ideas for new laws

King County Board of Health declares racism a crisis

Racism was declared a public health crisis by King County’s Board of… Continue reading

State Capitol Building, Olympia, Washington. File photo
Tax collections tumble as state braces for huge budget hole

Inslee cancels pay raises for some execs and orders furloughs for workers as special session looms.

Inslee announces updated religious, faith-based services guidance

Modified Phase 1, Phase 2 allow indoor services at 25% capacity or 200 people, whichever is less

As sales tax plummets in King County, mental health and drug program funding dries up

County will need to make severe cuts to MIDD program this year.