Spokane Regional Behavioral Health Unit Sees Continued Growth and Success

Julie Humphreys, Public Safety Communication Manager, 509.625.5868

Friday, January 21, 2022 at 2:28 p.m.

The Spokane Regional Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) sees continued growth and success assisting people experiencing behavioral health crisis in its’ second year of operation

Year-end data shows the BHU had an increase of 9% in the number of contacts made with people in crisis in 2021 compared to 2020. Of the 4090 people contacted, 79% had an outcome other than jail or hospital. The goal of the unit is to help people manage their crisis in the best way possible which often means diverting them from arrest or treatment at hospital emergency rooms. A “crisis contact” is described as a person who is experiencing increased emotion and decreased reasoning. Additional statistics point out other successes with the BHU as mental health professionals team up with law enforcement to find safe solutions for people in crisis while keeping the community safe;

  • 33 individuals were arrested or 0.8% of contacts which is a 27% decrease in arrests from 2020
  • 680 individuals were emergently detained - taken to a hospital for involuntary treatment because they were a danger to themselves or others or gravely disabled - which is 15% of all BHU calls for service
  • 306 individuals were diverted from arrestable offenses and diverted from hospitals which is a 10% decrease from 2020
  • 4,559 total calls were relieved from patrol
  • The BHU responded to 392 suicidal calls, followed up on 470 individuals, made 769 welfare calls, and assisted designated crisis responders (DCR’s) in 1219 BHU calls

“Within the first two years the unit has had great success in connecting those in crisis with the right services, at the right time while still being able to follow after the initial contact” says SPD Sgt. Jay Kernkamp, BHU Director. “We are able to build rapport, gain trust, and communicate more effectively.  As a result of these de-escalating techniques, we have been able to reduce recidivism of high utilizers and reduce uses of force on those individuals in crisis.”

Here is a recent example of the type of incident the BHU may respond to;

A 27-year-old female called 911 stating she was thinking about killing her ex-boyfriend after arguing with him over custody of their children. A patrol officer found the female wandering the streets looking for her ex-boyfriend. When patrol contacted her, she requested to go to the hospital or jail because she had never had homicidal thoughts before.  She was alone, and afraid of her thoughts, with no family or friends for support. BHU arrived on scene and assessed the female. It was determined stabilization resources would be most appropriate and would allow her to get the help she needed.  The female was diverted from the hospital and taken to the Spokane Regional Stabilization Center. The female stayed for three days until she was stable and confident in her coping skills.  Prior to being discharged, she was connected to outpatient counseling services.  Before this incident the female had no prior police contacts, was not a behavioral health client, and not connected to any services. She was extremely thankful for the interaction with the BHU.

Please see this video of a BHU team in action this week  https://vimeo.com/668739440

***The Regional BHU consists of 4 officers from the Spokane Police Department (SPD) and 3 Deputies from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO)/Spokane Valley Police Department (SVPD), co-deployed with clinicians from Frontier Behavioral Health (FBH) to assist those caught in a “crisis” within our community. The BHU is funded through The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs***

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