Councilmembers Strauss, Lewis and Herbold Propose Establishing 24/7 Citywide Mental Health Crisis Responders

Councilmembers Strauss, Lewis and Herbold Propose Establishing 24/7 Citywide Mental Health Crisis Responders

Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6, Northwest Seattle), along with Councilmember Lisa Herbold and Councilmember Andrew Lewis proposed to expand the Mobile Crisis Team and other behavioral health programs to establish a 24/7 citywide mental health crisis first response as part of today’s budget committee meeting deliberations in the Finance Committee discussion. The proposed budget amendment, which Councilmember Strauss is the prime sponsor of, would add $13.9 million to strengthen our region’s behavioral health crisis response system.

“Seattle is at a critical juncture and we cannot afford to wait any longer for solutions. We don’t need to create new programs, we need to expand the proven programs we already have to meet the full scale of the crisis on our streets,” says Strauss. “An effective public safety system sends the appropriate first responder to respond to emergencies right away. When someone is experiencing a crisis the right first responder is the Mobile Crisis Team who provides a meaningful intervention. My proposal will expand the Mobile Crisis Team and provide city-wide coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

The amendment (HOM-053-A-001) adds $3.9 million to expand the Mobile Crisis Teams (MCT) to operate 24/7. This would double the size of MCT and greatly enhance its capacity to respond quickly to crisis events across the city. The MCT, a program operated by the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) is made up of teams of mental health professionals who are deployed upon the request of another first responder, Crisis Connections, or Designated Crisis Responders.

An additional $1.5 million would expand the Behavioral Health Response Team (BHRT), another DESC program that follows up with individuals to ensure they continue to get the help they need. The time immediately after a crisis episode is crucial to an individual’s stabilization and recovery. With more behavioral health first responders throughout King County, teams will be able to respond faster to individuals in need, reduce repeat crisis episodes, and help other first responders focus their efforts more efficiently.

Finally, the amendment also includes $8.5 million for operating costs of a voluntary crisis stabilization center, like the Crisis Solutions Center currently operated by DESC, that would nearly double the capacity for these types of services in King County.

“During last year’s budget, I invested $1 million to maintain and expand the Mobile Crisis Team” Strauss continued. “Now, we have the opportunity to better fund the continuum of care and meaningfully engage with those individuals who are currently left to deteriorate on our streets.”

Councilmember Herbold said, “With 911 priority 1 response times increasing, we have to make sure that sworn officers dedicated to community safety in Seattle are focused on the calls that only they can respond to. This means we must ramp up alternatives like Mobile Crisis Teams. The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform’s recent analysis of Seattle’s 911 calls resulted in the Executive’s agreement that ‘up to 12% of calls for service can be responded without SPD involvement in the near term.’ That’s 40,000 calls annually which do not require a police response.  The proposed budget falls far short by proposing to respond to just 7,000 of these (“person-down and “wellness-check” calls) with Triage One. That leaves more than 30,000 calls that will default to police response without an alternative funded at scale. Investments like the Mobile Crisis Team are exactly what we need to respond safely.”

“The amount and severity of behavioral health crisis events in our community greatly exceeds the capacity of current community programs.  We need more professional and peer providers to be able to respond to people in crisis, and we need more places for people in crisis to go so they can stabilize.  This amendment is a major step in meeting those needs,” said Daniel Malone, Executive Director of DESC.
The Seattle City Council’s Select Budget Committee will discuss this budget amendment this afternoon as part of the 2022 City Budget process. A public hearing on the 2022 Budget will be held on Wednesday, November 10th, starting at 5:30 p.m. Participating is encouraged. The City Council is expected to adopt the 2022 Budget on Monday, November 22nd.

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