By Hannah Saunders
The North Sound Response Awareness, De-escalation And Referral (RADAR) program will be filling three new full-time Navigator positions to cover the Bothell, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and Kirkland neighborhoods.
RADAR aims to reduce police force by assisting those with behavioral health issues or developmental disabilities when experiencing a crisis, including substance abuse, mental health and basic needs.
“Part of what the Navigators do is respond to in-the-moment crises,” said RADAR Program Manager Brook Buettner. “Sometimes it’s a mental health professional that’s really needed for a mental health crisis.”
Buettner is a licensed social worker who occasionally responds to calls. Her primary focus is program development, data gathering and grant research.
“Until recently, we’ve been working with contracted social workers,” Buettner said. “We have great Navigators right now, but they’re not full-time. A lot of them have other full-time jobs.”
Under the RADAR program, mental health professionals (Navigators) pair up with specially trained law enforcement officers to respond to and follow-up on calls.
“When a person with a behavioral health crisis calls law enforcement, usually there’s been some failure in the treatment system,” Buettner said. “They’re dropped or have no access to services they need and we want to get them access to all the services they need in the mental health system.”
Buettner said when people have access to mental health counselors, substance abuse recovery programs, and basic needs such as housing and food, it’s less likely that a mental health crisis will occur.
Before coming on board, Navigator candidates take part in a ride-along to see if they are comfortable with the law enforcement environment and new settings, including encampments.
“In an active scene, the Navigator is a civilian, so part of the protocol is the officer has deemed the scene to be secure,” Buettner said. “When it’s a secure scene, the officers will usually introduce themselves and then let the Navigator take the lead.”
According to Buettner, the co-responding officer takes on a supporting role, particularly during follow-up calls and ensures the safety of the Navigator.
“A lot of times, what the officer can do is talk to other people there, while the Navigator can take the person aside to create a calm environment,” Buettner said.
The purpose of the Navigator is to help with de-escalation, learn about underlying problems the person in crisis is experiencing, and provide that person with the correct programs and services.
“The need is greater this year than it has been in the past,” Buettner said. “We’re seeing an increase in suicidality.”
In 2020, Buettner said RADAR saw a significant spike in young individuals stuck at home who had behavioral health outbursts. But since in-person learning has resumed, those incidents have become less frequent.
Buettner also said that depression and anxiety are rising amongst people in crisis due to the reduction and access to mental health services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Sound RADAR served 571 individuals last year. There were 933 total encounters due to follow-ups.
“Sometimes, it’s a multi-step process to get them to care. When you’re in a crisis, your focus narrows, and the Navigator will work on what the person is capable of at the moment and focus on the next small step,” Buettner said. “The long-term plan is to get services such as therapy or substance abuse treatment, which will require several touches.”
North Sound RADAR recently began advertising to fill the three full-time Navigator positions. The job comes with city employee benefits.
“The process is just going to be applying on the website,” Buettner said. “Our human resources department will identify candidates that will meet requirements,” Buettner said.
Visit www.governmentjobs.com/careers/bothellwa to apply.