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Mobile mental health project awaits launch

MONROE — A new emergency mental health service is coming to Monroe and Sultan in the next few months, once staff can be found for it.
The program seeks to help anyone with an emergency mental crisis, responding along with police to de-escalate a mental health crisis and get the person the resources that they need.
The program has been in the works for about a year according to Deborah Knight, Monroe City Administrator, and has been funded mostly by Snohomish County, Sultan, and Monroe. Similar programs are being established across the state. Monroe is joining others in hopes that having mental health professionals for these emergencies will help people get the resources that they need while also taking some pressure off of the police.
“Interactions between police and people with mental health crises usually don’t go too well,” Knight said. “Bringing in a mental health professional will hopefully bring better outcomes.”
As of Oct. 5, the program was still seeking counseling staff to man the program.
The program is primarily operated by the Volunteers of America, with acute mental health issues being what the mobile unit will respond to, such as a situation where someone may be harmful to themselves or others due to mental health crisis. They would be dispatched along with police and fire personnel and would act similarly to an EMT, but specifically for mental health. The program will be associated with the 988 mental health hotline that has recently been introduced by the Volunteers of America. This hotline is similar to 911, but instead is for those experiencing a mental health crisis. There is a clear need for this service as evidenced from interviews done by the city in the summer of 2021. The report states that behavioral health was one of the most important factors brought up by the citizens that were interviewed. People thought that there were inadequate mental health services and providers based on the interview and found it important to be able to access facilities such as Compass Health. This program is designed in hopes that those in an emergency mental health crisis get quick access to the resources that they need from a professional that is trained specifically to help them.
It may be a few more months before the program is implemented, as the city is currently having trouble staffing the position as of Oct. 5. Social workers with the city are mostly focused on homeless outreach right now and the demand for them is high. There seem to be not as many social workers as positions that need filling, so the program has been delayed. The social workers would be working out of the Volunteers of America in Sultan and be dispatched as needed.
“The currently designated crisis responders operate throughout the entire county, sometimes taking hours to respond to a mental health crisis,” Knight said earlier this month.
On Aug. 4, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers announced that the county would partner with 11 cities and $9.6 million to expand access to shelter, social services, and behavioral health services. This answers what the public stated as important needs in the 2021 interviews and seems like an important step for the county.
“We are committed to addressing the increased mental health needs of Snohomish youth so they and their families can succeed,” said Snohomish Mayor Linda Redmon. “We hope that by expanding our behavioral and mental health services through specialists at our schools and within our community our youth will have the support they need to thrive in and out of the classroom. We believe the benefits will be felt within the community at large.”



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