With the signing of the state’s new triage center legislation, local leaders say they’re grateful to Snohomish County for paving the way to make the concept available across the state.
The state legislation, initially proposed by Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon and supported by the County Council, will soon offer communities the option of taking people in crisis to a triage center rather than jail or an emergency room – both more expensive options.
Since March, the county’s new Triage Facility, located in Everett and operated by Compass Health, has allowed law enforcement from Everett and Snohomish to successfully test the idea.
“Our triage legislation allows any county to open such a facility as a cost-effective alternative to the hospital emergency room or jail,” Reardon said. “In these tough economic times, we need creative solutions like this one for serving our community effectively.”
In response to community-wide concerns, triage facilities will allow for short-term crisis stabilization while additional measures are considered.
“Passage of this law was one of NAMI’s top priorities,” said Jim Bloss, president of Snohomish County’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “We’re pleased Executive Reardon proposed the legislation to the County Council and that they included it in their legislative agenda for 2011.”
“The new program is an effective alternative to the more expensive hospital emergency room, especially since most individuals in crisis are not in need of acute medical services,” said Tom Sebastian, Compass Health CEO and president.
Two Snohomish County legislators, state Rep. Mary Helen Roberts and state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, agreed to be prime sponsors of the bill. The legislation passed both chambers unanimously and on April 22 was signed into law by the governor.
“Law enforcement officers need a place where persons in crisis can be transported, held and stabilized,” said Snohomish Police Chief John Turner. “Up to this point we have been taking individuals to the hospital or jail because there was no place else to take them.”
The Triage Facility in Everett is being funded through a partnership with Snohomish County and the North Sound Mental Health Administration (NSMHA).
“We are pleased to be a partner with Snohomish County in funding the Triage Facility,” said Charles Benjamin, NSMHA’s executive director. “The new law will give the staff the time to evaluate the needs of persons in crisis and establish an appropriate service plan.”