The Chelan County Sheriff's Office Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) has received a Mental Health Field Response grant award in the amount of $1,005,423.28 from the Washington Association of Sheriff's & Police Chiefs.

The grant is designed to assist local law enforcement agencies in establishing and expanding their capability to respond to calls for service involving those who are experiencing mental health issues and crises.

BHU Program Manager Ana Johnson says the sheriff's office has already earmarked the money to make several critical hires.

"What we're intending to use the funding for is three positions for mental health outreach case managers for their salaries and benefits. We also allotted for two deputy positions who will be deputies that are specifically assigned to respond to mental health calls."

This year's grant award was over four times as much as the $242,041.96 the Behavioral Health Unit received in 2022.

Johnson says that while the money is definitely needed and will be put to good use, the BHU hopes to one day be less reliant on grant assistance.

"Eventually, the goal is not to be dependent on grants. We really want this program to be self-sustained through county or city budgets because it plays such a vital role in our community and it's had such a great buy in."

The BHU was established two years ago in partnership with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, and the Wenatchee and East Wenatchee Police Departments, along with various other agencies.

Since its inception, the BHU has had a measurable impact on how law enforcement and other first responders mitigate situations involving mental health issues, and also increased the rate of treatment and diversion among those who are in experiencing mental health issues and lessened the time they are incarcerated.

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