Mental health is a critical public safety issue in Vancouver
VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) has been awarded nearly $315,000 in grant funding by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) Mental Health Field Response program.
This new $2 million initiative established by the Washington State Legislature provides a groundbreaking opportunity for VPD to partner with Clark County Crisis Services and SeaMar Community Services Northwest. VPD will provide pass-through funding to Clark County for three new full-time mental health responder positions to assist VPD officers in the field.
Mental health is a critical public safety issue in Vancouver. VPD is deeply committed to improving services to this vulnerable community, and works actively with a strong network of dedicated local leaders and exceptional service organizations to provide a continuum of effective care options to best meet the needs of each individual.
“While law enforcement continues to serve as a first responder for many individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, we recognize that other service providers are often better suited to provide assistance. Partnering with mental health responders to provide access to timely evaluation and referral services can have a significant impact on an individual’s long-term safety and success. Arrest and incarceration should never be the default response for addressing mental health issues,” said VPD Chief James McElvain.
This WASPC grant will add mental health crisis responders to assist VPD officers in the field and enhance opportunities to connect individuals to additional resources, services, and treatment options.
This initiative builds on the successes of the current crisis response program in Vancouver, which is highly successful in diverting individuals from the hospital or jail when other service providers are better suited to provide assistance. The proposal was supported by several community leaders and partner agencies, which included prosecutors, crisis responders, behavioral health service providers, and advocacy organizations.
“Enhancing field response capabilities should prevent many mental health crises from escalating. We hope to serve as a model for the rest of the state to follow,” said Judge Darvin J. Zimmerman, who has spearheaded recent mental health discussions for our region.
“Our goal is to provide individuals in Vancouver with the behavioral health support and services they need. We believe that this strategy will be beneficial for individuals, behavioral health service providers, law enforcement, and the community,” said Daniel Jass, program manager for Clark County Crisis Services. New staff will be hired and trained this fall.
“We are fortunate for this opportunity to bring new state-level resources to Vancouver,” said McElvain. Vancouver is one of nine Washington communities selected for funding.
Information provided by Vancouver Police Department.