The Skagit County Sheriff’s Office has a program in place that started in September of 2020. This program is Integrated Model of Police and Crisis Teams (IMPACT) where it teams up mental health clinicians and deputies riding in the same car.

This allows a clinician to help the deputies deal with people who are having a mental health crisis or just a difficult time dealing with life.

During my 30-year career, we have always provided those facing a mental health issue as much guidance as we could. Our law enforcement training does not go into great depth when dealing with people in crisis, but there are requirements for law enforcement officers to get some training in crisis intervention each year.

With IMPACT, we started with two clinicians provided by Compass Health who rode with deputies for a 10-hour shift. The role of the deputy was to respond to any mental health type of call. The deputy ensures the scene is safe before the clinician can assist in the situation. Over the past two years the Skagit County Board of Commissioners have allowed funding for four new deputies and four clinicians. We now have a clinician in a patrol car with a deputy seven days a week.

Since the program began in September 2020, the IMPACT Teams have responded to about 500 calls for service. It has been a huge success in helping people with these crises. Families have also benefited from the program as they can now call about a family member in crisis and have a clinician on scene to provide immediate assistance.

There are many examples of success stories from the team.

Here are some from one of our deputies who works his shifts with the clinicians:

In September 2020, we had a few contacts with a man who was hallucinating and thinking that horrible things were happening around him.  Usually, by the time that deputies contacted him, he had calmed down and regained his composure.  He didn’t seem to pose a danger to himself or others during the first few contacts.  Then on Sept. 12, we got a call from the Miles Sand and Gravel Pit on Kelleher Road about a male on the property who was trying to take a cement mixing truck and was acting oddly.  When we arrived, the man was hallucinating about his family being massacred.  After trying to calm him down for a significant amount of time, he ran from us.  The clinician and I worked this case for some time and were able to partner with the man's mom who lives out of the area.  She came to Skagit County so that he could see his family had not actually been massacred.  We were able to get him to a hospital. I later learned from his mom that he was suffering from extreme liver failure, and that was what caused him to hallucinate.  He was treated, and we haven’t heard from him since.  His mom credits us with saving his life, as he likely would have died from liver failure had he not been seen at the ER.

On Dec. 12, 2020, I took a theft complaint in Anacortes where a piece of machinery had been stolen from a business.  The suspect adult male was later identified in the theft.  I went to his home to ask him about the stolen property that was located in his front yard.  After talking with his girlfriend, I was able to talk with him over the phone.  He confessed to me about taking the machinery, and we ended up having a great conversation over the phone about his drug addiction to meth.  I had offered to have him work with the IMPACT clinician, and he thought that was a great plan.  It took him a few weeks to get himself ready to make the plunge into accountability, but he did on Christmas Day.  He called me on Dec. 25 and stated that he was ready.  He went to jail on a warrant and has been clean since that day.  He had diligently worked with IMPACT and has now been sober for six months.  He is engaged to his girlfriend and is playing an active role in his family.  He regularly attends substance treatment and has been a huge advocate for IMPACT, crediting IMPACT with saving his life.

This program has been of great value to our citizens in Skagit County as we know through our experiences that a trained mental health clinician can assist our deputies and our local police departments with people who are struggling with mental health or drug addiction.

— Chad Clark is undersheriff of the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office. Send questions to scsocommunity@co.skagit.wa.us.

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