The Chelan County Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) continues to grow and serve both Chelan and Douglas counties with mental health intervention services. 

The unit has received major grant awards lately to enhance and expand its services. 

Behavioral Health Unit Program Manager Ana Johnson says they serve a specific purpose in the community. 

"We're really trying to figure out how do we divert individuals from either ER or incarceration and really address the needs that are sought out through the 911 system." said Johnson.  

Johnson heads a four-person team that's seen as a model for other rural counties around the state for addressing behavioral health. 

The group received a $1 million grant last month from the Washington Association of Sheriff's & Police Chiefs, which is about four times the size of the grant the association awarded to the program last year. 

Johnson’s team also recently received a $90,000 grant from Carelon Behavioral Health which offers crisis services in several regions in Washington state. 

The two-year-old Unit has momentum from the grant funding. There's also a perception that the program is making a difference in the community. 

Johnson says they've had great success reaching people in need by responding to 911 calls alongside officers and deputies. 

"You wouldn't necessarily think to call at a moment of crisis or a bad day, but you know that someone is going to answer," Johnson said. "And so, to have programs like the ones that we are currently having here in Chelan County with the behavioral health unit is that you're going to get a response. And you're going to get someone to be there to help you." 

The recent grant funding is being used to hire additional BHU staff members and beef up training by allowing members to attend national conferences. 

The Behavioral Health Unit continues to respond to 911 calls alongside the Chelan and Douglas County Sheriff’s Offices, and both the Wenatchee and East Wenatchee Police departments. 

Johnson says they have a very collaborative working relationship with law enforcement. 

In addition, she says they’re getting direct referrals from health care facilities who are seeking to avoid individuals having to call law enforcement through Rivercom. 

Johnson says BHU has had more than 6,900 contacts in the past year. There were 628 contacts in the month of September alone. The group keeps records of statistics such as the number of people who have a substance abuse disorder or a mental health disorder, and those who suffer from both ailments. 

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