PORT TOWNSEND — The Board of Jefferson County Commissioners approved the acceptance of a grant to fund a mental health navigator position within the county Sheriff’s Office.
The six-month grant for $63,209 is from the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs (WASPC).
The navigator will be a mental health professional who will work within the Sheriff’s Office to respond to mental health and/or substance abuse calls to law enforcement, Sheriff Joe Nole said.
Navigators exist nationwide under different names. In the programs, a social service worker and/or mental health specialist is incorporated with a law enforcement team who assists when a subject is unable to find needed services.
The Port Townsend Police Department has had success with Navigator Jud Haynes, who has connected people to services since he started in April 2019, Nole said.
Nole provided commissioners Monday with data of arrests and incident responses that showed there were 14,750 incident responses with 125 related to alcohol, 109 related to drug and narcotics, and 212 related to mental health in 2019.
In last year’s numbers through Nov. 12, there were 10,692 incident responses, with 93 related to alcohol, 110 related to drug and narcotics, and 282 related to mental health, he said.
Mental health responses are some of the most time consuming, on average, Nole said. Having a navigator will free up deputies to respond to other calls, he added.
“It seems like we spend a lot of time on the mental health-type calls,” Nole said.
The future navigator will provide clinical supervision and program oversight, working under undersheriff Andy Pernsteiner, and will be based out of the Sheriff’s Office in Port Hadlock, Nole said.
At the end of the six-month grant period, Nole said he will be able to reapply for additional funding to cover 18 months, so the position will be grant-funded for two years before the board considers whether to use county funds to pay for a full-time position.
The Port Townsend Police Department’s separate navigator position started as a part-time, grant-funded position, and the city council voted in 2019 to pick up the cost of the remaining hours to make it full-time.
Nole is currently working on a Request for Proposals (RFP) from mental health agencies for the new county position in addition to possible other partnerships, and he plans to present them at a future date to the commissioners.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].