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


The crisis response system in King County is sticky, but changing quickly. Five cities in northern King County have teamed up to add mental health professionals to their police departments. Soon, the program plans to provide those responders seven days a week, including teams that answer calls without law enforcement.

“Co-respondent” is a term you’ll hear more and more around King County. It is the concept. Police or firefighters in collaboration with mental health professionals To handle certain calls.

Like recently in Bothell, a mother called the police because her teenage son was running away from home. Bothell Police Officer Jenna Shannon came outside after speaking with the family inside their home.

“Son has been in contact with the police for five days, so he wasn’t too happy to meet me and didn’t want to talk today. So Svetlana will be watching,” Shannon said.

Svetlana Kirillova is a mental health specialist Northern Sound Radar Navigator Program. Five city police departments in north King County started the initiative to fund positions like hers. Kirillova said she was alarmed by calls from people in distress, like an old woman repeatedly calling 911.

Kirillova found out that the woman’s living conditions were deteriorating.

“She was lying between the couch and the coffee table,” Kirillova said. “She was not eating properly.

Kirillova spent months meeting with the woman’s family and eventually helped her move into an assisted living facility.

There are some specifics about the RADAR Navigator program. One is that crews write response plans for officers on how to best approach people.

According to program manager Brooke Butner, they also warn officers about what to do not at all to say.

“Sometimes it can be something as simple as saying, ‘Don’t call your stepdad dad,'” she said, “and that can really upset the young person and make their behavior worse.”

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

The program has two limitations. Currently, mental health crews are only available during limited hours. and must be accompanied by a police officer.

But Buettner said additional funding next year will allow the crew to expand into evenings and weekends and answer some calls without police officers in teams.

Bothell resident Jenny Marker said she welcomes that development. In recent years, Marker said she frequently called 911 to cope with trauma and sensory overload while raising her young children. However, she feared and did not trust the police.

“Although I respect their role, I fear them and their power,” Marker said. “So I think it would be better for everyone if they could be removed from the mental-health space.”

Two years ago, a Bothell police officer brought in a mental health navigator to see Marker. The navigator helped the Marker family address immediate needs, such as getting enough food and diapers, and then connected her to mental-health resources.

“I have to tell you, my life changed drastically when I had the radar program. Because I’m not calling 911.

She said she now calls the 988 mental health hotline if she needs to talk to someone. And she serves on the Radar Program’s Community Advisory Board.

Bothell Police Chief Ken Seiberlich helped start the scouting program. He said the officers love it and it’s been a game changer for the unit. The biggest problem is that there is almost no place to take people outside of jails and emergency rooms when they are in trouble.

“It’s like having nurses and doctors but not having hospitals,” he said. to theHe said.

However, they recently received some good news on that front. Government funding is approved For the new 16-bed crisis stabilization facility In North King County, in addition to the one in Seattle.


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