Woodward, Cathcart propose police, behavioral health partnership in East Central

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward and City Councilmember Michael Cathcart are proposing a potential partnership that would bring a police precinct and mental health center to East Central. 

Woodward and Cathcart are proposing the former East Central Library be used as a neighborhood police precinct with on-site behavioral health resources in the same building. This proposal is similar to a program already in place in the downtown precinct.

The Spokane Regional Behavioral Health Unit is a partnership between the Spokane Police Department, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and Frontier Behavioral Health. It aims to help people in crisis by providing them mental health resources, instead of sending them to jail. It also frees up patrol officers to deal with other situations.

“This is a chance to advance the neighborhood policing model as a conduit to service professionals who can really meet community needs,” Woodward said. “Community centers are places where people can get to know each other and access resources at the neighborhood level. There’s tremendous potential for officers to be better integrated into the neighborhood at a proactive human level.”

I’m really interested in strengthening connections between police officers and the neighborhoods they serve,” Cathcart said. “We are doing that work in the neighborhoods around the Northeast Community Center and after listening to feedback from the East Central Neighborhood it made sense to explore what might be a right fit as East Central continues to evolve and grow its vibrancy.”

Woodward, Cathcart and Police Chief Craig Meidl are looking to partner with the East Central neighborhood to provide similar resources to them. They are eventually looking to expand to where the old location shares a parking lot with the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center with the hopes of expanding to the West Central Neighborhood.\

The MLK Center, East Central Neighborhood Council and the East Sprague Business Association have shown their support for the proposal. 

The proposal would have to be passed by the Spokane City Council to be put in place.

City leaders say the neighborhood has seen an uptick in crime. Cathcart claims a 56% increase in crime since camp hope moved in.

The proposal drew pushback from councilmember Betsy Wilkerson who wants to see community engagement from people who live in the neighborhood.

“We want that in our neighborhood. We want them here. We want to be good community partners, but if you all do not allow us to have a voice in this process. It is about us without us,” she said.

Wilkerson says the received submitted proposals about using the space for mental a mental health facility or entities and other proposals for a cultural center.

The city put out a ThoughtShare survey where hundreds shared what they think should go in the building.

The MLK center shares a parking lot with the building. Director Freda Gandy says the facility would address gaps the gaps in services and create improve community relations with police.

“This is not what this is about today there are needs in our community that need to be meet, and to sit here, and say that there’s been proposals for a cultural center. You’re looking at one across the parking lot, work with the people in that building,” director Freda Gandy said.

Debra Rainey has lived in the East Central neighborhood for 22 years and believes the city’s proposal is a good idea.

“One thing we really do have around here is these bicycles that go down here that go 80 mph an hour. They’ll start clear down at Altamont and reeving up and zoom,” Rainey said.

READ: Spokane Regional Behavioral Health Unit sees continued success in helping those in crisis