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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: New pilot program teams Seattle Police with mental health providers

5/18/2010  9:15:00 AM
Sean Whitcomb (206) 615-0923

New pilot program teams Seattle Police with mental health providers

SEATTLE – In an effort to address the needs of the mentally ill, the Seattle Police Department is launching a creative approach to provide street-based intervention and services: The Crisis Intervention Team and Mental Health Partnership Pilot Project (CIT/MHP).

The Seattle Police Department will contract with a mental health provider to pair a mental health professional with police to help identify people with significant untreated issues in order to better deliver the treatment services they need. Funding for this pilot project will be provided by a $250,000 fiscal year 2009 Justice Assistance Grant.

Mental illness is a problem that has long plagued those who suffer from it, their families, friends and loved ones and the communities in which they live. These issues manifest themselves to the general public in a variety of ways. Is there are story behind the woman on the street corner talking to herself and gesturing wildly? What about the person who is walking on the Aurora Bridge and peering over the edge. Are they contemplating suicide? One need look back no further than March 12, 2010 when a mentally ill man claiming to be a vampire disrupted King County Courthouse operations and closed down Third Avenue due to the “bomb” taped to his wrist.

Created as a stop-gap measure to de-escalate incidents involving the mentally ill, the Seattle Police Department created and implemented a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) in 1998. Today, the Seattle Police CIT program is recognized nationally. Clearly, the program fulfills a need. The police department logs about 130 contacts per week with individuals showing signs of mental illness, in addition to other undocumented contacts that do not require a follow-up. Demands on the CIT program have continued to grow while the ability of mental health professionals to assist police officers in immediate need has decreased.

Emulating the success of the Neighborhood Corrections Initiative, the CIT/MHP Pilot Project will jointly address the needs of the mentally ill, multiplying the capabilities of the CIT program in Seattle.

Seattle Police CIT officers will work directly with mental health care professionals provided by a selected mental health agency. As daily work partners, the designated CIT officer and mental health professional will work proactively to get individuals in crisis suffering from mental illness and/or drug abuse the proper treatment, as well as housing and social services. By providing mentally ill and chemically dependent individuals with street level assessments and referral services the pilot project hopes to avoid using the more costly interventions such as jail, emergency rooms and hospitals.

“Those who suffer from mental illness represent some of the most vulnerable people in our community. This innovative approach is a much needed first step to provide services to a segment of our community that too many have forgotten,” said Mayor Michael McGinn.

"The CIT/MHP Pilot Project is an inclusive and proactive approach that provides mentally ill and chemically dependent citizens the services they need while decreasing the stress on our jails and emergency rooms," said Councilmember Bruce Harrell.

Interim Chief John Diaz added, “We have long known just how debilitating mental illness is, especially when combined with homelessness and chemical dependency. This first responder/mental health professional partnership will allow us to seek out and provide care to those who need it most.”

“Mental illness affects everyone. Tragically, some of the most severe cases end up in Western State Hospital, our local hospitals, King County jails or on the streets. Street level intervention offers a unique opportunity to give mental health professionals direct contact with clients who are in crisis, positioning them to provide timely and preventative care,” said King County Department of Community and Human Services Director Jackie MacLean.

The Seattle Police Department will hold an informational session for the CIT/MHP Pilot Project and a Request for Proposal for a mental health professional agency on Tuesday, June 15, 2010, at 2 p.m., Seattle Police Headquarters, 610 Fifth Avenue, Seattle WA (corner of Fifth Avenue and Cherry Street), Lower Level Conference Room.

Beginning May 24, the entire RFP specifications, qualifications and schedule can be accessed at

If you have further questions about the RFP please contact Captain Ron Wilson @ 206.684.8748 or via email at, or Officer Scott Enright @ 206.423.1108 or via email at


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