Bothell City Council approves North Sound RADAR Program memorandum

The RADAR program served 126 people in the city of Bothell in 2020. BPD courtesy photo

By Meghan McLaughlin

The Bothell City Council approved a memorandum by a unanimous vote on April 20, authorizing Erin Leonhart to obtain a $780,000 Mental Illness and Drug Dependency grant from the King County Department of Community and Human Services.

The funding will finance the North Sound Response Awareness, De-escalation And Referral (RADAR) Program through 2022, which aims to decrease use-of-force incidents involving individuals with behavioral health issues and developmental disabilities.

“This is a very proud and encouraging update here,” said Deputy Mayor Jeanne Zornes. “I appreciate how this is genuinely supporting the community and building community, real community.”

The RADAR program began in 2017 as a collaborative effort between the Center for Evidence-Based Policing at Georgetown University, the city of Shoreline and the National Police Foundation. In early 2019, Shoreline, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Bothell and Kirkland police chiefs met to expand the program to east King County.

These five cities share the cost, infrastructure and information associated with the program. The information-sharing component is essential, as people in need of mental health assistance often cross city borders.

Mental health navigators met with 126 people in Bothell in 2020. The average engagement time was 35 minutes. Nine percent of people served were homeless, 37% reported a disabling behavioral health condition, and 3% were military veterans.

RADAR Manager Brook Buettner, who briefed the council before the vote, noted that while Caucasians are more likely to go into treatment centers, people of color are sent directly to the legal system.

“We know from research into diversion programs like this that they can tend to serve more white people, and people of color can tend to be put more into the criminal legal system,” Buettner said. “I’m proud to say in the last two years when we’ve been collecting data, the demographics have closely aligned with the racial demographics of our cities.”

Buettner mentioned many people lost access to behavioral healthcare during the pandemic, but the RADAR program did not cease operations at any point. Mental health navigators made follow-up in place of in-person meetings and continued to assist every call.

Bothell Police Chief Ken Seuberlich, who was on hand to field questions from councilmembers, mentioned once a meeting with an individual is complete, there is often nowhere for navigators to send the person experiencing a mental health crisis.

“The one thing that is actually missing in this region is an actual facility with beds for treatment,” Seuberlich said. “That’s something that has to be funded.”

There are currently only 17 crisis triage beds in King County, so navigators send people to Kent-area treatment centers, removing them from their home environment. Despite the lack of resources, Seuberlich is proud of what the program has accomplished.

“Our navigators are amazing at utilizing resources that we do have available to us,” Seuberlich said.

According to Buettner, the RADAR program plans to increase navigator coverage and provide more immediate access to community members experiencing mental health crises in the future.

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