The North Sound RADAR Navigator program was recently awarded $80,000 to expand mental health professional (MHP) services in its cities.
The navigator program includes police departments of Kirkland, Kenmore and Bothell and the funds were awarded by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
“Collectively, we were appreciative that WASPC saw that the program could be a success,” Capt. Mike Ursino with the Kirkland Police Department wrote in an email.
RADAR, which was officially implemented by its partners on Jan. 1, 2017, seeks to more effectively handle incidents involving police and community members with developmental disabilities and/or behavioral health issues. Because of the recently awarded grant, officials who are part of RADAR can more efficiently and humanely respond to suitable scenarios, with the assistance of onsite and/or on-call mental health professionals.
“This improves the interactions between the public and law enforcement, thereby reducing the possibility of using force, and improves public safety overall,” according to the city of Kirkland in a press release. “Instead of booking someone into jail, they may be connected with services or diverted to a more appropriate facility.”
The $80,000 grant is one part of a newly developed $2 million program put into motion by the Washington state legislature. According to Ursino, it is the second grant RADAR has received as a continuation of the same program. The first was for $120,000 and was awarded last year. The application process involved a written proposal delineating the role and objectives of the program, and was a collaborative effort among the five groups encompassing RADAR.
According to Ursino, the MHP and the responding officers they work with during applicable scenarios form a crisis intervention team. The team typically directs someone to services for various reasons: crisis assessment, de-escalation, emergent need, case management and service referrals.
“The need for an MHP is not always clear until the team arrives on a scene…but as a professional the MHP can most always be of use,” Ursino wrote in his email.
Ursino added that having an MHP collaborating with law enforcement officials can help provide further coordination for community support in the long term.
“Families in crisis do not often know where to get help for their loved ones,” he wrote. “This model allows for the education of the family and individuals as to what services are available so that they can better advocate on their behalf.”
Ursino considers the continuing expansion of the MHP program a breakthrough.
“As a law enforcement officer, I see that a full-time, fully funded MHP program is a win for city, law enforcement and mostly the citizens who need to be navigated to help,” he said in an email.