LYNNWOOD, Wash.Compass Health and the Lynnwood Police Department announced a partnership, August 5, to embed a mental health professional with the Lynnwood Police Department Community Health and Safety Section to better manage the health and safety needs of individuals and the community.

“This is a great opportunity to engage in folks better than we otherwise may have engaged with them…we’re hoping this helps reduce the amount of law enforcement contact that folks have and get them the right resources at the right time,” Charissa Westergard, Director of Healthcare Integration at Compass Health told the Lynnwood Times.

Compass Health is a community-based healthcare agency which integrates behavioral health and medical care services to form a key section of the community safety net and serve clients and others in need of care and support. The non-profit organization serves people of all ages throughout Snohomish, Skagit, Island, San Juan, and Whatcom counties.

The organization first implemented the Community Transitions model in partnership with South County Fire in Snohomish County in 2016, providing a range of community response services, which includes crisis outreach through Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOT), the new Integrated Model of Police and Crisis Teams (IMPACT) program, and ongoing care coordination and non-emergency services such as the Community Outreach and Recovery Support teams.

This new partnership, funded by a grant from the Verdant Health Commission, aims to reduce high-frequency use of emergency services by responding to community members at risk in Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. With thanks to this grant, many people in need will have access to mental health, substance use treatments, shelter assistance, food vouchers, hygiene sites and more.

“I think the real benefit of embedding with law enforcement is, they have the initial contact often, but what the individual needs is often what law enforcement is not able to provide,” Westergard told the Lynnwood Times. “We really want to foster a continuity of care,”

The Verdant Health Commission funds a wide range of programs that empower people in South Snohomish County to make healthy decisions and get the care they need to stay well. Their current focus is investing in innovative programs that will make a lasting impact on the health and well-being of South Snohomish County residents, having issued $8.2 million in grants last year. In addition to their fiscal support, they offer free or low-cost education and prevention classes both virtually and in-person at the Verdant Community Wellness Center in Lynnwood.

Heather Turner, embedded Compass Health mental health professional, will begin riding along with LPD’s community health and safety officers to meet with individuals throughout Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. According to Turner, many people call 911 because they have needs that are not being met but they don’t know where else to turn. This new program would allow them to get the appropriate resources at the appropriate time.

“I’m excited to be a part of this collaborative effort to look at this challenge holistically and provide care to individuals with the goal of empowering and supporting them,” Turner said.

Westergard’s goal is to meet people in need of medical care, mental health care, substance use treatment, transportation, housing, or food assistance and connect them with the appropriate resources needed for help.

“This partnership is really beneficial to the individuals and the community,” Westergard told the Lynnwood Times.

For more information about the Community Transitions program please visit: https://www.compasshealth.org/services/community-transitions/.

Kienan Briscoe

Michael Kienan Briscoe (referred to by his middle name 'Kienan') has a BA in Journalism from Arizona State University and has worked as a freelancer for a variety of publications and organizations throughout New York City and Seattle. Journalism, to him, is one of the most important public tools to ensure an educated and aware society of events surrounding them. When he is not reporting he enjoys writing fiction and poetry, playing guitar, reading classic literature, and getting outdoors. He lives in Seattle with his two dogs.

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