Big time props go out to KPD and their partner, Lourdes Health, who hooked up to provide a community program that is working so well, it has been featured in more than one fraternal police publication because the program works in the here and now, and it provides a model what other departments can do within their communities to adopt what's going on here, moving forward. So, what's going on here?

Tim Dees KPD-MHP
Tim Dees KPD-MHP

It's the Mobile Outreach Team partnership. The Lourdes Mobile Outreach Team has been riding shotgun with officers working the day and evening patrol shifts. The mental health counselors are employed by Lourdes Counseling Center, part of the Lourdes Health system. The program is funded by a Trueblood grant from Disability of Rights Washington and the Seattle Foundation until June 2022. Once the grant is complete, other funding resources will be necessary.

Officer Rick Sanders has been with KPD for three years, following his retirement from the U.S. Air Force. He frequently takes one of the mental health professionals with him on patrol. “They’ve been a tremendous asset for us,” Sanders said. “They know the cues to identify people with emotional problems. Sometimes, the person has already been diagnosed and prescribed medications, but they stop taking them. The counselors can get them to a prescriber who can get them the meds they need, and back on track.”

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Washington law has a provision for peace officers, mental health professionals and other medical professionals to admit someone to a behavioral health facility involuntarily if the person is a hazard to themselves or others, or unable to provide for their basic needs, but they use that option less frequently when they have the counselors on the scene. “The counselors give us more tools to use, so we get the best possible outcome,” Sanders said.

The Tri-Cities municipalities share borders, even some residents aren't really sure sometimes where one city ends and the other begins, so their first responders often have to work cooperatively. “We respond to calls for assistance from the other PDs and sheriff’s offices at least once or twice per week,“ Sanders said. “Our leadership supports this, so it’s never a problem if we have to respond outside of the city to other Benton and Franklin County areas.”

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