The Chelan County Sheriff's Office wants to address several needs heading into 2024. 

One priority is to get local funding for the Behavioral Health Unit, which has been supported solely through grant money in its two-year existence. 

Sheriff Mike Morrison says he's been talking with county commissioners about getting the unit on the county payroll. 

"I want to make sure that they're included with the contracts to show that they're a line item, and that they're supported moving forward, because Behavioral Health has been a huge program," said Morrison. "It has been very successful. They’ve been a trend setter there." 

The Behavioral Health Unit currently relies mostly on grant money from the Washington Association of Sheriff's & Police Chiefs. 

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

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

She said they have a very collaborative working relationship with law enforcement. 

In addition to getting Behavioral Health on the county payroll, Morrison said upgrades are needed for the Marine Patrol. 

He said there's a critical need to replace some of the marine patrol boats because they’re more than 20 years old. 

"I was actually talking to Lifeboat," Morrison said. "And they said that our Marine Two unit is the longest serving vessel that they've ever had in production. So, they were stunned to see that it was still in the water." 

The Marine Patrol has been a major success story in the past year. 

It rose from being on probation to being recognized as one of the top three performing Marine Patrol operations in the state. 

Being on probation meant funding for the marine program was in jeopardy from Washington State Parks, which oversees and implements Washington's Recreational Boating Safety Program.  

The marine patrol landed on probation because of a lack of activity, as in the number of contacts with boaters on waterways. 

Deputy Garrett Churchill runs the sheriff's office marine patrol program.  He and his direct superior, Sgt. Rob Huddleston, are credited with bringing the program back. 

Churchill was named Washington State Parks Recreational Boating Safety Marine Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2023. 

Another need for the Sheriff’s Office according to Morrison is to replenish their air support unit. 

The office has two helicopters and has hired two new pilots. 

Morrison said the helicopters are aging and will need to be replaced. He's hoping to replace one of the aircraft in 2024. 

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Gallery Credit: Reesha Cosby

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