The Regional Crisis Response (RCR, pronounced ‘racer’) Agency is a newly formed, collaborative effort among the north King County cities of Bothell, Kenmore, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, and Shoreline that will provide consolidated and standardized regional mobile crisis response services for the five-city region.
The regional mobile crisis services provided by RCR begin with a person-centered approach focusing on compassionate and immediate crisis response, de-escalation, resource referral, and follow-up tailored to the specific needs of those experiencing behavioral health challenges.
The RCR Agency will have 13 full-time staff, an initial $5 million biennial budget, and will deploy Crisis Responder Mental Health Professionals (MHPs) to serve community members in the five-city region who are experiencing behavioral health crises. The new RCR Agency consolidates and expands the service provided by the successful North Sound RADAR Navigator and Kirkland Community Responder programs and seeks to offer services on a 24/7 basis.
Typically, law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) respond to 911 calls regarding community members in crisis. With the RCR Agency, we are changing that approach. The five-city coalition that formed RCR did so in part to reduce any over-reliance on traditional public safety response to behavioral health calls by providing an alternative – Crisis Responders (CRs).
These Mental Health Professionals are available to respond with police to behavioral health-related 911 calls. The Responders will have their own radios and arrive at the scene in their own vehicle. Once on scene, they coordinate with other first responders to determine the best type of response for the individual(s) experiencing the crisis at hand. The five cities have set a goal to work with 911 dispatch centers and the new 988 crisis hotline call center to ultimately be able to directly dispatch CRs, when appropriate and safe to do so.
Regionalizing and expanding mobile crisis response is an important step in advancing the larger vision with north King County partners to create a more robust regional continuum of behavioral health services. The goal is to address the needs of those with behavioral health challenges by providing someone to call, someone to respond, and somewhere to go. A new 988 crisis line, launched on July 16, 2022, provides community members in crisis someone to call. RCR’s mobile crisis response services provide community members in north King County with someone to respond.
Additionally, a new behavioral health crisis response center will serve community members in north King County. Located in Kirkland, the center will provide a spectrum of care services, from walk-in mental health urgent care to continued stabilization of behavioral health or substance use crises. Connections Health Solutions, a national innovator in behavioral health crisis care, will operate the center and expects it to open in 2024. The center will serve anyone regardless of insurance status or acuity and give community members in crisis somewhere to go.
Connections Health Solutions is opening King County’s first behavioral health crisis care center in 2024. The North King County Coalition (cities of Bothell, Kenmore, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, and Shoreline) and King County are committed to expanding critically needed access to dedicated behavioral health crisis care resources. Connections Crisis Response Center will be located in the 405 Kirkland Corporate Center, close to Interstate 405 and the King County Metro and will have capacity to serve up to 14,000 individuals each year.
At the start of 2023 the cities of Bothell, Kenmore, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, and Shoreline are merging the North Sound RADAR Navigator Program and Kirkland’s Community Responder Program into a new, Regional Crisis Response (RCR) Agency. The Agency will be a separate legal entity, formed by interlocal agreement, and governed by an Executive Board comprised of City Managers or Administrators from each member city. The agency will provide mobile crisis response services to better serve community members in the five-city region who experience behavioral health crisis.
What are mobile crisis response services?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes mobile crisis response services as a community-based intervention to individuals in need wherever they are, including at home, work, or anywhere else in the community where the person is experiencing a crisis. Essential functions of mobile crisis services include:
Triage/screening, including explicit screening for suicidality
Coordination, or “warm hand-offs” to providers offering medical and/or behavioral health services
What are the benefits of a program like this?
There are many benefits to a program that aligns a healthcare response to a healthcare need. This includes providing an intervention that focuses on the unique needs of the person in crisis, immediate stabilization, and connections or “warm hand-offs" to local health and human service agencies to continue care and access critical resources. Additionally, these programs free up other public safety resources to focus on their primary job responsibilities and reduce unnecessary involvement in the criminal legal system for community members in crisis. Mobile crisis responders may also prevent unnecessary visits to the emergency room if a warm hand-off to another provider, such as the future crisis stabilization clinic, is appropriate given the unique needs of the individual.
What type of education and experience do the Responders have?
Each Responder is a highly trained Mental Health Professional (MHP). Responders must have completed their master's degree in social work, sociology, psychology, human development, or other related field, and have an Associate’s license through the State Department of Health as a social worker, mental health counselor, or marriage and family therapist as defined by WAC 246-809.
Who do I call if I’m in distress or concerned about someone?
If you are experiencing behavioral health related distress and need to speak with a trained crisis counselor, you can contact the King County Crisis Line any time by calling or texting 988. If you are in an emergency, dial 911. If the issue cannot be resolved on the phone, dispatch will send additional help. Depending on the nature of the call and how to best meet the individual needs of the caller, police, community responder, fire, or some combination of the three will respond.
How often will the Responders be available?
Initially, the Responders are available from roughly 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days per week. The five cities have set a goal to expand coverage to 24 hours per day, seven days per week, covering the graveyard shift on an on-call basis.
How is the new agency governed?
RCR will be governed by an Executive Board comprised of one City Manager/Administrator from each member agency. The Board will be responsible for hiring an Executive Director who will oversee the day-to-day operations of the agency. The Executive Board will appoint individuals to serve on two advisory groups who will advise the Executive Director and the Executive Board: A Community Advisory Group and a multi-disciplinary Operations Board. The Community Advisory Group will be comprised of individuals with lived experience receiving behavioral health services. The Operations Board draws on multiple disciplines that intersect the criminal justice, first response, and behavioral health systems including police, fire, dispatch, health and human service partner agencies, and other stakeholders as determined by the Executive Board. Finally, several times per year the agency will hold a Principle’s Assembly which is joint meeting of the Executive Board and elected officials from each member agency to review the agency’s activities, work plan items, proposed budget, and other items related to the agency’s operations. The agency’s governance structure is detailed in the founding interlocal agreement.
Will the meetings of the agency be open to the public?
All meetings of the Executive Board will be open to the public and compliant with the Open Public Meetings Act.
How is the new agency funded?
The new agency is funded through a combination of contributions from member agencies and grants. The initial agency budget for 2023-2024 can be found in the founding interlocal agreement.
What is the agency's budget?
The agency’s 2023-2024 budget totals nearly $5.5 million and fully supports 13 FTEs (full time equivalent positions) and all associated operating costs for the agency. The budget assumes just over $1 million in grant funding, leaving the remaining $4.5 million to be covered by member cities on roughly a per-capita basis.
How many staff will the agency employ?
The initial 2023-2024 budget supports a 13 FTE (full time equivalent) program: 1 Executive Director, 1 Supervisor, 1 Administrative Assistant, and 10 Responders. At these levels, two units of five responders will be based out of two geographic locations (roughly west and east) in the five-city region roughly 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days per week. It is a goal of the agency to scale operations up to 24/7 in the first biennium, which may include rotating graveyard shifts among the Responders on an on-call basis, among other potential solutions.
Can other cities join the new agency?
The founding ILA allows the option for new members to join after the first year of operations. In order to join, a new member must share a border with an existing member and agree to the terms and conditions of the founding ILA, contribution amounts, and any other adopted policies and procedures of the agency. It is the stated intention of the agency that the addition of new members will not decrease service levels for existing members, nor increase contribution amounts for existing members.