Sheriff’s Office will build mental health response on the professional, personal levels

information and photo released by Chelan County

With the help of a new grant, Chelan County is creating a program for the Sheriff’s Office and county jail that will help them in identifying and responding to a mental health crisis in the field as well as potentially in their own lives.

“What patrol and corrections can endure during their day-to-day duties can be stressful, even traumatic on their most difficult shifts,” said Ana Gonzalez, manager of the Chelan County Diversion Program and Behavioral Health Unit. “First responders go from call to call, normalizing what goes on in their day.  While there are processes that agencies implement during critical incidents, we want to normalize the help-seeking process. Asking for help can be lifesaving.”

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office was recently awarded $57,500 from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to begin developing the in-house wellness program with the assistance of Gonzalez. The funds are state dollars provided by the Criminal Justice Training Commission.

The initial program will be developed for the Sheriff’s Office and then rolled over to the Chelan County Regional Justice Center.

Photo above from left to right, are BHU outreach case manager Erika Hamilton and BHU manager Ana Gonzalez.

“For years law enforcement has pushed expectations on officers and deputies to extremes, expecting them to respond to and be the answer to every type of call and situation you can think of,” said Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett.

“Unfortunately, this was done without any training or tools in managing the potential stress that goes along with this line of work. We’ve learned from experience that we can and should do better to proactively take care of our first responders, rather than waiting until there’s an emergency.”