SPD completes pledge to help individuals affected by mental illness

Michele Anderson, Public Safety Communications Manager

Wednesday, July 3, 2019 at 2:13 p.m.

The Spokane Police Department (SPD) is pleased to announce that it has completed a pledge to improve the department’s response to those suffering from mental illness in the community. The pledge is part of an initiative called the One Mind Campaign started by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), a 30,000 member professional association for law enforcement that provides training, technical assistance and recruitment services. To join the One Mind Campaign, law enforcement agencies must pledge to implement four promising practices in a 12-36 month period to ensure successful future interactions between police officers and persons with mental illness. SPD had completed the four areas prior to pledge.

“It is estimated that one in 10 people suffering from a mental health condition will have some form of police involvement in their pathway to mental healthcare”, says Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl. “This recognition and membership to IACP’s One Mind Campaign confirms that we continue to follow national best practices in our efforts to properly address the growing needs of those suffering from mental health issues.”

The Spokane Police Department responds to more than 500 calls for service a month to welfare, suicidal, disorderly and mental health calls for service. On average the department takes a person suffering from a mental health crisis to the hospital for an evaluation 88 times per month and a third of calls for service are for a suicidal person requiring hospitalization. In the law enforcement community, mental illness has become a common focus, with some departments estimating that as many as 20% of their calls for service are related to mental health declines.

SPD requires every officer complete mandatory 40-hour of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which equips officers with the best techniques for de-escalating interactions involving people in crisis. The department works collaboratively with its mental health partners toward the goal of improving the outcomes of encounters between police and people with mental health issues. In addition to the 40-hour CIT training, in 2015 SPD debuted its Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team Training (ECIT), a program developed in partnership with Frontier Behavioral Health that further helps bridge the communication gap and provides officers with a communication approach they could use in any situation. Currently, 22 officers and the majority of senior staff for the department have completed the ECIT training. The partnership between SPD and Frontier Behavioral Health has been the cornerstone for the department’s successful CIT and ECIT programs.

Collaborating with Frontier Behavioral Health, in July 2018 SPD formed its Community Diversion Unit (CDU). The CDU pairs mental health professionals and police to respond to individuals in the community experiencing a mental health crisis. Working side-by-side, the co-deployed teams aim to divert individuals away from jails and hospitals and connect them to the services and resources they may need.

SPD's mental health training programs stem from long-standing relationships between the department and mental health providers. The department meets and works with community members and professionals with a strong commitment to improve encounters through the Behavioral Health Steering Committee (BHSC). Utilizing the BHSC as the vehicle to convene behavioral health stakeholders, representatives from behavioral health outpatient and inpatient providers, department of corrections, local hospitals, providers for developmental disabilities, children services, Spokane Public Schools, and law enforcement meet regularly. These stakeholders represent a wide range of perspectives, some working with very specific populations, while looking at response, resiliency and recovery through the lens of trauma-informed care. The BHSC provides these community stakeholders with a venue where community perceptions/concerns can be shared, agency updates can be discussed and furthering the relationship with all stakeholders can occur. These discussions are used to help SPD further refine the CIT and ECIT training curriculum and policies and practices can be refined or developed to improve encounters with law enforcement as well as each stakeholder.

For more information about the One Mind Campaign, please visit the IACP’s website: http://www.theiacp.org/onemindcampaign. A list of all agencies who have taken the pledge is also available there.

About the Spokane Police Department

The Spokane Police Department is committed to providing excellence in policing, enhancing safety and security of individuals, and building partnerships to better the lives of our community members as a whole. For more information, visit www.spokanepolice.org, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

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