Chelan County is seeing remarkable success with its recently-launched program that places mental health professionals in the field with law enforcement agents.

Chelan County Commissioner Kevin Overbay says the program is designed to accomplish a number of things.

"The program's goals were really to respond to people who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis or who are at risk of a crisis and refer them to appropriate services or treatment. It also seeks to increase a connection to local services for unmet needs. It's also designed to reduce the number of arrests law enforcement makes and emergency room visits for those in crisis. And also it hopes to identify treatment gaps in Chelan County and throughout our region."

The program saw a huge increase in the number of people it reached within the North Central Washington, moving from 34 contacts in January of last year to more than 600 in both December and January of this year.

There was initially only one mental health professional assigned to the program, but in its 14 months in existence, three more have been added to its ranks.

Overbay says that team of four has also recently broadened its reach and is now assisting several law enforcement agencies beyond the Chelan County Sheriff's Office.

"They have now extended their services to the other regional law enforcement agencies, including the East Wenatchee Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office who are now utilizing their services. They also do pro-active work now as well by reaching out to folks who are in need of assistance and doing follow ups."

Overbay says about 55 percent of the program's work is currently being done through the Chelan County Sheriff's Office, while 21 percent is with the East Wenatchee Police Department; fourteen percent throug the Wenatchee Police Department, and seven percent with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

The program is funded by various federal and state grants.

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