New law creates partnerships between local police and mental health professionals
March 21, 2018 | By Rep. John Lovick
OLYMPIA—A law by Rep. John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) will create partnerships to help local law enforcement officers respond to calls that involve mental health issues.
“Officers testified that behavioral health is the number one public safety issue facing our state,” Lovick said. “As a former state trooper and Snohomish County Sheriff, I understand the problem. The cost to taxpayers and in shattered lives is enormous. This legislation brings mental health professionals to work in the field alongside law enforcement officers to help people in crisis get the help they need—help they wouldn’t get in a county jail.”
House Bill 2892 passed the House and Senate on unanimous votes and was signed into law on March 21 by Gov. Jay Inslee.
“We all know that law enforcement agencies are responding to a significant number of mental health related calls,” said Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle), who helped write the legislation and sponsored it in the Senate. “Incorporating mental health experts into these responses makes sense both for the safety of the person in crisis and the responding officers. We’ve seen successful implementation in cities like Seattle and Tacoma. It’s time to expand these programs to the rest of Washington.”
Lovick said the legislation is meant to find new, more effective and less expensive partnerships to make sure people get the help they need while reducing the chances of bad outcomes. The legislation also includes flexibility for law enforcement agencies to use different models to handle mental health issues, including multiple agencies joining together under one umbrella, which will help small towns and rural counties.
“Police officers know that if someone is suffering from a mental health issue, arresting them over and over again doesn’t end that cycle,” Lovick said. “What actually works is to make sure that person gets treatment, which is the best possible outcome for that individual, for taxpayers and for the community.”