Marysville to pair police officers and mental health workers

Clinicians will respond with officers to mental health calls. The pilot program runs through June.

MARYSVILLE — Police aren’t always equipped to handle a mental heath crisis.

In an effort to help with that, the Marysville Police Department plans to bring on two health care workers to join its officers.

The department recently received a $95,000 grant from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. The new program, called IMPACT for short, was approved by the Marysville City Council about a week ago.

Marysville is partnering with the Arlington and Lake Stevens police departments. All three work together often because their borders touch, Marysville police spokesperson Cmdr. Wendy Wade said.

“We do training together, sometimes we are called in as backup,” she said. “It’s just sort of organic that we include them in that group as well.”

The acronym IMPACT stands for Integrated Model for Police and Crisis Teams. It was first implemented by the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office.

The two new staff are expected to work out of the Marysville Police Department but are employees of Compass Health. The grant pays for their salaries and any equipment they may need.

One person has been officially hired so far, Wade said, but they each are expected to have a degree in behavioral science and experience providing crisis intervention services. Training starts in early March, and the pilot program runs through June.

The project builds on the city’s embedded social worker program that began in 2018, where an officer and social worker team up to offer treatment and other services to those experiencing homelessness, or people who live with addiction or mental illness.

So far the social worker and police officer team has completed about 2,870 interactions, according to the city.

“Our police officers have been responding more often to calls involving mental health issues outside their areas of expertise,” Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said in a statement. “I’m excited to add mental health experts to the Marysville public safety team. This investment is a good one for our officers and for the public we serve.”

When the program begins, the mental health workers are expected to ride with an officer who can drive them to calls where they are requested.

Many people are reported to police multiple times because callers don’t know how to handle mental health issues. The Marysville department hopes this program gets those people help, and to end that cycle of recurring calls.

“This is going to be the trend in law enforcement,” Wade said. “We need to do more for our mental health, and police can’t do everything, it’s not our expertise. So to bring in those subject matter experts to work with us just makes sense.”

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

This story has been modified to remove an inaccurate term for the mental health professionals.

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