Vancouver Police partners with Sea Mar-CSNW to enhance mental health services

When safe and appropriate, VPD officers will call out Sea Mar mental health professionals to respond to their locations in the field

VANCOUVER –The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) is partnering with Sea Mar-Community Services Northwest to establish a pilot program to improve access to mental health services and treatment options.

Vancouver was awarded nearly $315,000 by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) as part of a $2 million program established by the Washington State Legislature. Only nine grants were awarded to communities statewide. 

Vancouver Police officers will work with Sea Mar mental health professionals to enhance proactive outreach, safety planning, and building positive relationships with the community. File photo
Vancouver Police officers will work with Sea Mar mental health professionals to enhance proactive outreach, safety planning, and building positive relationships with the community. File photo

VPD originally received funding in September 2019 to share with Clark County and Sea Mar, and agreements were approved by the Vancouver City Council in October 2019, Clark County Council in November 2019, and Sea Mar in January 2020. 

After months of planning and project development, field implementation was scheduled for March 2020 but was delayed by COVID-19, and no grant funds were spent. WASPC reached out to VPD in June 2020 to advise that the current level of funding would be available through June 30, 2021.

Vancouver will share grant funding with Sea Mar to add three full-time mental health responder positions to assist VPD officers in the field in an on-call capacity during peak call hours. Vancouver Police officers will also work with Sea Mar mental health professionals to enhance proactive outreach, safety planning, and building positive relationships with the community. This grant will add capacity to the current crisis model, reduce response times for mental health field evaluations, and promote treatment, diversion, and options to reduce incarceration.

When safe and appropriate, VPD officers will call out Sea Mar mental health professionals to respond to their locations in the field to provide a clinical evaluation and transfer responsibility for treatment and follow up care. The intent of the Enhanced Mobile Crisis Response Team is to provide citizens experiencing a mental health crisis with the opportunity to receive care where they are. It is also designed to divert some citizens from incarceration who have committed low level crimes while suffering a mental health crisis. 

“We are excited to grow our partnership with VPD to increase opportunities for individuals in crisis to receive rapid crisis response services to the field in conjunction with officers. This funding allows us to enhance our existing adult mobile crisis program to aid in this effort. We will be responding to the community with a team of trained mental health professionals and peer support counselors to offer crisis intervention, safety planning, and resources,” said, Erica Hunt, Psy.D. Behavioral Health Program Manager, Sea Mar – CSNW Town Plaza in Vancouver, Washington.

This initiative builds on the successes of Vancouver’s local crisis response protocols by further improving collaboration with the courts and prosecutors, crisis responders, treatment and service providers, and advocacy organizations. The Vancouver community has a well-established mental health response network, which is highly successful in diverting individuals from the hospital or jail. 

Vancouver currently requires 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training for all police officers, and VPD continues to invest in police training and de-escalation strategies for its personnel. This grant will enhance access to mental health services through June 30, 2021, when funding ends. While funding is limited for this competitive grant program, Vancouver plans to re-apply for grant funding in spring 2021 to continue to enhance the project.

“We are fortunate for this opportunity to partner with WASPC and Sea Mar to bring this pilot program and new resources to Vancouver and ensure mental health professional are used early on so that our officers can focus on more appropriate policing matters,” said VPD Police Chief James McElvain.

Sea Mar Community Health Centers, founded in 1978, is a community-based organization committed to providing quality, comprehensive health, human, housing, educational and cultural services to diverse communities, specializing in service to Latinos in Washington State. Sea Mar proudly serves all persons without regard to race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, or sexual orientation, and regardless of ability to pay for services.

Sea Mar’s network of services includes more than 90 medical, dental, and behavioral health clinics and a wide variety of nutritional, social, and educational services.

Sea Mar is in the process of hiring and training new mental health co-responder positions with the goal of beginning field work with the Vancouver Police Department in October 2020.

Information provided by Vancouver Police Department.

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