Impact of the Behavioral Health Unit 2020
Julie Humphries, 509.625.5868
Friday, February 19, 2021 at 4:38 pm
The Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) responds to thousands of individuals in crisis in 2020 and delivers the best possible outcomes during a challenging year for people with mental health issues.
Combined team data released by the Washington Association of Chiefs and Chiefs of Police for the first year of BHU operations in Spokane County shows which unit was contacted 3760 people Between January 2020 and December 2020. 78% Of those contacts resulted in a result other than imprisonment or hospital. The aim of this unit is to divert people in crisis from being detained or seeking hospital treatment when other options may better meet their needs.
The BHU is made up of officers from the Spokane Police Department (SPD), a deputy from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), and a Spokane Valley Police Officer, who are deployed jointly with physicians from Frontier Behavioral Health (FBH) to assist those caught in a “crisis” within our community. A “crisis liaison” is described as a person with increased feelings and decreased thinking. The unit responds to those in crisis county-wide, but it has also proven to be a valuable asset to agencies across the state. SPD is looking to add additional officers to the BHU unit due to the program’s success in providing safe solutions to the person in crisis, mental health professionals, and law enforcement.
subordinate 3760 people contact was made, and 46 were arrested, which represents 1.2% of contacts; 590 people, or 15.7% of contacts, were detained emergency – meaning the person was hospitalized for involuntary treatment because they were fatal, suicidal, unable to care for themselves, or seriously disabled. In addition to the 3,760 contacts last year, 331 people identified with call types other than mental health were diverted from arrestable offenses and from hospitals. BHU managed to relieve a total of 4272 Calls from a patrol in 2020.
Other numbers show that the unit responded to 434 suicide calls, followed up on 520 individuals, made 1,044 social care calls, and assisted the DCR – designated crisis responders – with 772 BHU calls.
“2020 has been a challenging year for everyone,” said BHU Sgt. Jay Cairnkamp.
“The Behavioral Health Module could not have been implemented at a better time. Too often we have been the only social interaction and resource available during a pandemic. Going forward, BHU expects to serve the community by reducing high-user service calls to 911 and helping those in crisis By connecting them with services and resources, BHU continues to strengthen relationships with its investing community partners.”
BHU has had many success stories of helping those in crisis in its inaugural year. Here is one recent example of the impact loneliness has on society. ***
A murderous suicide man escaped from a nursing facility in Idaho and headed to Spokane, where he is said to be looking for his girlfriend to kill. The male was diagnosed with Affective Disorder and Bipolar Disorder and was said to be armed with a firearm. He said he did not want to go back to prison and would not be taken alive. At the same time, it was the duty of law enforcement to try to protect the female victim from any attempts to assassinate her.
Recognizing the risks to the public and law enforcement, BHU immediately reached out to neighboring and victim agencies to develop intelligence on the male. BHU officers were in contact with him within an hour by phone. Within 3 hours the male agreed to meet with BHU officers. During this time, BHU officers along with the DV unit worked collaboratively with the victim and male friends to keep all parties safe and to ensure that no crimes were committed. 5 hours after the first call in this incident, BHU officers met with the male. He admitted that he has bipolar disorder and is far from being treated. The male was cooperating with BHU officers and agreed to check for firearms, none of which were found.
The male was voluntarily transferred to a nearby hospital for evaluation. He stayed there for 7 days as his health stabilized and he was evaluated while on his medication. The victim was kept safely during this time. Once discharged from the hospital, BHU met the male again. They explained to him the risks he presents while taking the drug. He was also informed of the no-contact order issued against him while he was in hospital. This was to ensure he did not return to prison and to keep his girlfriend safe.