Spokane Police Behavioral Health Unit sees increase in calls during pandemic

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Police Department’s Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) has seen an increase in calls during the pandemic, and authorities say it has helped divert hundreds of people from jails and hospitals.

In March alone, BHU had 298 crisis contacts—that is, a “person who is experiencing increased emotion and decreased reasoning.” SPD says this is an increase of more than 100 compared to January and February, and also double the crisis contacts from November and December, which the BHU attributes to warmer weather, increased drug use and frustration with COVID restrictions.

When responding to behavioral health crises, SPD arrives with a clinician from Frontier Behavior Health to help make contact with a distressed person.

SPD says 76% of these BHU responses had an outcome other than jail or the hospital, 21% of crisis contacts were detained for emergency with no use of force, aside from handcuffing. Also, 6% of crisis contacts were diverted from arrest-worthy offenses, and 44% of contacts in March were referred to care.

In all, these contacts saved patrol 554 calls, which SPD says equated to around 303 hours.

RELATED: Behavioral Health Unit seeing increase in calls for mental health help

If you are struggling, there are a few things you can do to maintain your mental health.

  • Keep in contact with loved ones virtually, so you’re not socially isolated.
  • Limit your intake of news surrounding the pandemic
  • Talk to someone if you do need help.

Those in need of help can call the following line:

  • Regional Crisis Line: 1-877-266-1818
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255