| Kitsap Sun
POULSBO – A new behavioral health unit based in Poulsbo will be available to respond to a variety of emergency mental illness, mental health, substance use and behavioral health calls in North Kitsap beginning in January.
Associated with the Poulsbo Fire Department, the new, two-person unit will be available to respond to fire and police referrals throughout North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island. Organized as a fire CARES unit (Community Assistance, Referral, and Education Service) like other similar units in the state, it’ll consist of a firefighter with crisis intervention training and a behavioral health professional who can respond to crisis situations and on follow-ups with people who are identified as needing support.
Firefighters on calls will refer patients to the unit, and those professionals would connect identified patients to other local services and care providers and ideally help to prevent crisis situations. The unit would be able to respond to a crisis situation or could make case management-style follow-ups with a patient.
“Fire departments are well-known for putting an emphasis on fire prevention,” said Poulsbo Fire Department Chief Jim Gillard. “This is looking at it the exact same way with (emergency medical services). We’re trying to find folks who are vulnerable, preventing them from having the emergency. It’s much more efficient for us and it’s protecting them and keeping them from going into crisis and hopefully, eventually saving lives.”
The new program received about $300,000 – 12 months of funding – through a grant from Kitsap County’s 1/10th of 1 percent sales and use tax that supports mental health, chemical dependency and therapeutic drug court programs. The Poulsbo Fire Department will employ the firefighter and the social worker/behavioral health professional position will be contracted out by the city of Poulsbo.
“Communities across the country are asking for a non-police alternative to behavioral health 911 calls and we’re taking a big step in that direction next year,” said Kim Hendrickson, the city of Poulsbo’s director of Housing, Health and Human Services, in an email to the Kitsap Sun.
“We want to help people before they have police contact and open the door to assist people in need of services,” she said.
Kitsap County commissioners signed off on appropriating $5.5 million in funds collected through the treatment tax last week. Alongside the new Poulsbo program, several others also received new funding:
- Agape Unlimited: Funds will provide capital improvements for Agape Unlimited’s substance use disorder program.
- City of Bremerton: Funds will go to an embedded mental health specialist/navigator in the city’s police department.
- Kitsap Homes of Compassion: Grant funds will provide mental health and substance abuse disorder support to Kitsap Homes of Compassion residents who currently don’t receive mental health services, adding staffing support, including case managers and a mental health professional.
- Kitsap Rescue Mission: Funds will provide on-site behavioral health services through a mental health counselor and substance use disorder professional at the mission’s shelter.
- Kitsap Community Foundation: Funds will provide training for 60 mentors led by Kitsap Strong and XParenting.
- Scarlet Road: Funds will provide flexible rental assistance for adult victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in Kitsap.
- Peninsula Community Health Services: Funds will provide coordinated care to a variety of patients, including those who are homeless and who are struggling with mental health and substance use issues.
Continuing grant funds will also go to groups, agencies and programs including Coffee Oasis, Kitsap Community Resources, Kitsap County District Court, Kitsap Juvenile Court Services, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, the Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and others.
Nathan Pilling is a reporter covering Bainbridge Island, North Kitsap and Washington State Ferries for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-5242, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @KSNatePilling.
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