Beginning in 2019 with former Chief of Police Bruce Linton, the Tukwila Police Department began exploring ways to incorporate mental health professionals in a support role to assist the department with providing resources and services to our community’s most vulnerable populations.
We are pleased to announce that as of this July, we have partnered with Sound to bring onboard a full-time mental health professional (MHP) to assist officers with responding to calls involving persons in mental crisis, substance abuse and our unsheltered population. The department’s contracted MHP will be part of a one-year pilot program which will be evaluated at the completion of the one-year period. This model MHP program was established after reviewing a number of MHP service models nationwide. The cost of our MHP pilot program is being paid for via seizure funds.
The purpose of this partnership is to attempt to decrease recidivism rates amongst those who would be better served with receiving treatment options and resources rather than continuing a cycle of incarcerations, hospitalizations and continued criminal and or dangerous behavior. This program however is not a “get out of jail free card” or something to imply that those committing crimes will be given a free pass to continue to do so. While we strive to provide resources and assistance to those willing to accept it and build relations, there are times when that is not going to be an option or appropriate depending on the circumstances of each contact and the nature of the contact.
Oftentimes, it takes multiple contacts for those in need to build a level of trust to where they are willing to accept help and resources. By having a regular MHP that those in need can meet with and receive assistance from, there is more likely to be an ongoing level of trust and understanding which in turn leads to more positive outcomes in the long run.
Our department’s contracted MHP will begin by riding with officers to get a picture of what resources we currently offer, what our training and response to mental health and substance abuse calls currently consists of and to get to know our officers and the Tukwila community as a whole. Alongside our MHP, the Tukwila Police Department will continue to utilize the King County Mobile Crisis Team as needed and we have partnered with other Valley agencies to provide mental health and substance abuse resources to those in need via a Valley-wide team of MHP’s.
In addition to the MHP services, we also have implemented other resources to assist victims of crimes in the form of our newly hired Victim Advocate. Prior to 2021, we had an exceptional Domestic Violence Advocate who was tasked with focusing on advocating for victims of domestic violence. The newly created Victim Advocate position was created to provide those same resources but also to expand assistance to be more inclusive of victims of multiple forms crime.
We are proud of the hard work many people have put in to make our MHP program possible. This was truly a community effort and a direct result of community input.