Kirkland introduces new specialist to help respond to mental health crisis

Robert Rebecca is a licensed mental health professional that will work with first responders.

The City of Kirkland announced the next chapter in its Community Responder Program with the hiring of Robert Rebecca. Rebecca joins Interim Community Responder Program Supervisor, Renee Cox, who was hired full-time to the program in January 2022

“The support from community members, our public safety partners, and City leaders for this program is really inspiring, and I’m eager to leverage my experience in the mental health field to help those experiencing crisis here,” said Rebecca.

Rebecca joins the Community Responder team as the latest hire under the new program. As a mental health professional, or MHP, who is licensed in the state of Washington, he brings experience managing a permanent supportive housing program, establishing a medication-assisted treatment program for people who use drugs, and worked at a crisis center.

Most recently, Rebecca served on the co-responder team for Pierce County, a similar role he will serve on Kirkland’s nascent program. He has a master’s degree from The Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago and serves on the board for the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology.

“Robert brings the skills, passion, and know-how to hit the ground running in assisting those in crisis,” says Cox. “He gets what we’re trying to do here, and he will be a great asset to our community.”

Cox transitioned into the City’s Community Responder Program in January 2022 after more than eight years working with the Kirkland Police Department as a contracted mental health professional.

As Interim Community Responder Program Supervisor, Cox utilizes her extensive experience in community mental health and direct client support to shape this brand new program, with a particular emphasis on building the new team. She’s an MHP who has held an independent license for 21 years and has a master’s degree in Community Counseling from City University of Seattle. Cox has also trained thousands of Washington state law enforcement officers in verbal de-escalation through the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

“Creating this new program from the ground up and forming this new team has taken an incredible amount of coordination, creativity, and commitment,” says Mayor Penny Sweet. “This truly is a giant leap for serving community members experiencing crisis in Kirkland. It is wonderful to see the City Council’s vision for this critically needed program building momentum.”

The City’s new Community Responder team responds to 9-1-1 calls in coordination with Kirkland police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians when a call for service has an underlying behavioral health component.

Although responding with public safety personnel, the innovative new Community Responder Program is housed in the City Manager’s Office. One of the objectives of the program is to reduce over-reliance on police as a primary response to 9-1-1 calls involving community members in behavioral health crises. The Community Responder Program was initially funded in the City’s 2021-2022 budget as part of the Community Safety Initiative.

For more information on the City’s new Community Responder Program, please visit the City’s website.