Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308
Friday, July 24, 2020 at 2:19 p.m.
Spokane law enforcement officers, along with Frontier Behavioral Health clinicians, are changing the way our police and sheriff’s deputies respond to people in crisis.
“With everything you got going on, do you have any thoughts that you want to hurt yourself or hurt anyone else,” clinician Jenny Mandin asked of a man, who said he’s been hearing voices.
Mandin is a member of Spokane’s Regional Behavioral Health Unit. The group is a blend of cops and counselors working together to find real solutions to their client’s recurring mental health problems.
“I think when people can recognize a face, when they’re in crisis, that’s instantly de-escalating,” Mandin said of building relationships with her troubled clients.
One out of every four calls police respond to involve someone suffering from a mental health problem.
That statistic is one reason why City and County officials support this joint program, which allows mental health professionals to deliver care and resources in an environment that is safe for everyone.
“Just being a mental health clinician, that really allows me to identify what’s going on with them and relay that information to any helpful intervention that comes later on down the road,” Mandin said of riding with officers dispatched to people in crisis.
In April of 2020, 70 percent of this Unit’s contacts led to resolutions that did not involve clients going to the jail or hospital.
None of those 222 cases involved a use of force beyond handcuffing.
“When you establish that rapport with somebody, the next time they’re in crisis, you go back and say ‘Shaun, it’s me’, that de-escalates a hundred percent right there,” said Officer Stacy Flynn of the Spokane Police Department.
De-escalation means saving lives and preventing injuries like the man who called 9-1-1 to say he was jumping off the Monroe Street Bridge.
Flynn and Mandin responded to the call as they rode side by side inside the officer’s Ford Explorer.
“The subject did not jump off the bridge. We were able to take him into protective custody. And we are taking him to Deaconess for an evaluation,” Flynn explained as he followed a patrol car to the hospital’s E-R.
The Behavioral Health Unit assumed responsibility for checking the man named Robert into the hospital. A move that freed up patrol officers to respond to other calls for service.
“Robert right? Yea. All right, Robert we’re going to get you inside, do some paperwork. Cooperate with them and they’ll get you the help you need all right,” Flynn advised the despondent man.
While Officer Flynn admitted Robert, Mandin documented the man’s case on her laptop, in the hopes of connecting Robert to outpatient services in the future.
“When you look at somebody who’s contemplating suicide, that’s a permanent solution to this temporary problem. There were things in his life that he needed to work out and he hadn’t worked them out. He was choosing reckless behavior,” Flynn said of Robert.
About 30 percent of the time, a visit from the Behavioral Health Unit results in someone accepting a referral.
“We really want to leave it on a positive note. Whether they want services or not, we always want them to leave knowing if they call police, they are going to get support,” emphasized Mandin.
Spokane’s Behavioral Health Unit is funded by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
WASPC’s members consider their grant an investment in helping people find new avenues to their recovery.
“No matter what, humans are humans and we are here to help humans. And, whatever someone is going through, there’s always an opportunity to change. And we want to be that changing factor for them,” pledged Mandin.
If you, or someone you know, needs help with mental health solutions, call Spokane’s Regional Crisis Line (1-877-266-1818) 24 hours a day.