Mental Health and Public Safety

In response to our work, Spokane City and County secured local and state funding to build a Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Facility. The facility will divert people who have committed a low level crime and who have mental health or substance abuse issues from jail to a stabilization facility. 

The idea of the campus was bolstered with a recent state capital investment of $2.4M. The facility will have key social support services to help successfully reintegrate into the community, i.e. housing, healthcare, including mental healthcare, job search, transportation assistance, licensing, and legal assistance, etc. The facility will also be a win for Spokanites who suffer from mental illness. As it stands now, if a mentally ill person commits a crime, the only place to send them to is jail or the emergency room, neither of which help solve their problem long term. The facility will create a third option, allowing individuals who meet certain criteria (e.g. low-level property and drug crimes) to be referred there for treatment.

The individual will have charges dropped if they keep with their prescribed program, e.g. staying on prescribed medications, attending treatment, etc.

This write-up in the Spokesman-Review, describes the effort to create this facility. 

Click here to read the full proposal that was approved by the Council.


Background on Jail Diversion Facilities and the Mental Health & Public Safety Team

The Mental Health & Public Safety team pulled together in 2014, specifically in response to the Spokane Alliance community’s concerns about hearing increased reports of the mentally ill being shot by police (our firefighters are many times called in as first responders in these cases) and seeing a rise in mentally ill participants in our churches’ emergency services.

Spokane Alliance leaders formed a research action team of 20 members from diverse institutions:  church members, medical students, Fuse members, nurses, and firefighters.

Delving into some of the reasons behind these incidents, they honed in on one, a vicious cycle:  people who are having a mental health and or substance abuse crisis that commit a crime are often jailed. This jail stay can result in their Medicaid being canceled.  When they are let out of jail, there is a gap in their medical coverage.  They don’t get treatment or medicine that they need for their condition and end up unstable and more likely to commit another crime.

The leaders also discovered a possible solution: jail diversion facilities. If someone commits a minor offense, they can voluntarily agree to go to such a facility and accept treatment for their condition in return for getting their criminal charges dropped.

The facilities have many advantages:

  • They save public dollars, keeping people out of the costly and overcrowded legal and criminal justice systems.
  • They are better equipped to handle people in crisis allowing them to get stabilized in a therapeutic environment.
  • Participants don’t lose access to Medicaid and are connected to treatment for their conditions.

Jail diversion facilities are being pioneered across the country and in Washington in Yakima and King County.