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Spokane law enforcement receive mental health grant

SPOKANE, Wash. - Hundreds of thousands of dollars are coming to Spokane County law enforcement. The money will pay for new officers and deputies who will be dedicated to mental health calls.

"I feel like I'm actually helping people," said Dave Dunkin, Officer at the Spokane Police Department.

Recently the amount of mental health calls he's responded to have grown significantly.

"It's not uncommon for me to have an entire day when that's the only kind of call I handle," said Dunkin.

The way he's responded to calls has also changed.

"If you can calm them down with just words, that's a win every time," Dunkin said.

It didn't happen overnight. It all started to years ago when the Spokane Police Department first started pairing officers with mental health experts.

"The mental health professional can then go and really spend their time with them getting the resources they need or figuring out what the best solution is," said Dunkin.

Thanks to a $700,000 grant, they'll have even more help. The grant will fund two county deputies, two city officers, and a supervisor that could go either to the city or county.

All who will permanently be partnered with a Mental Health Specialist from Frontier Behavioral Health.

"You may not know until we've got everybody kind of contained or handcuffed that there's somebody with a mental health issue," said Dunkin.

"Now we have access to that person's history. We'll know what has worked and what hasn't worked that as an officer I would have no idea," said Terry Preuninger, Sergeant with the Spokane Police Department.

It's a way of taking something good and making it even better, so officers can continue to help those people who may need it the most.

"We've had good success with the program we already have," said Preuninger. "It just became obvious that this is our job. This is what we do," said Dunkin.

Spokane Police and the Sheriff's Office hope to have the additional positions up and running as soon as possible.



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