Jeff Humphrey

Police Offer Help to People in Crisis

Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308

Friday, July 9, 2021 at 11:28 a.m.

One out of every four calls for service Spokane police respond to, involves a person in crisis.

That’s why every officer is required to attend a 40 hour class that teaches Crisis Intervention Training.

“It teaches officers the importance of identifying mental health and substance abuse disorders. Teaches them what that individual is experiencing, and what is the best way to communicate with them,” Sergeant Jay Kernkamp said of the training.

Officers learn to recognize the difference between criminal disobedience or, someone who is simply at the end of their emotional rope. With that in mind, officers can adjust their police game plan accordingly.

“To deploy certain de-escalation tactics of giving it more time, distance. Connecting them with services that patrol officers normally didn’t have the resources to connect them with, ten, twenty years ago,” explained Kernkamp.

The police department’s newer way of responding to people in crisis is saving both lives and money.

“When you look at somebody who’s contemplating suicide, that’s a permanent solution to this temporary problem,” said Officer Stacy Flynn.

Flynn is a member of the Behavioral Health Unit, which pairs officers and mental health clinicians who ride on patrol together, and specialize in crisis intervention.

“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,” emphasized Flynn.

A successful de-escalation can open the door to a diversion. That’s the process of delivering a person in crisis to one of Spokane’s mental health care facilities.

During 2020, the Behavioral Health Unit made contact with 3,760 people. 78 percent of those contacts resulted in outcomes other than a trip to the jail or hospital.

“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,” pledged Jenny Mandin, a mental health clinician and member of the Behavioral Health Unit.

Crisis Intervention Training, that includes realistic role playing, prepares officers to offer the patience and empathy needed for safe resolutions.

If you, or someone you know needs help with mental health solutions, call Spokane’s Regional Crisis Line 24 hours a day, at 1-877-266-1818.

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