Re: “Mental illness is a health issue, not a police issue” [June 16, Opinion]:
Pete Earley clearly articulates why we should redirect some public money from law enforcement to mental-health care.
As adoptive parents of a daughter with fetal alcohol syndrome and treatment resistant depression who frequently experiences psychiatric crises, we’ve called 911 many times. Community mental health agencies provide a phone number to call in case of crisis, but it can take hours before staff return our call, let alone respond on scene. Consequently, the first responders are usually police officers. They have always acted with professionalism and compassion, but their expertise is not in mental-health care. The only places they can send our daughter for evaluation are hospital emergency departments or the King County jail.
She has spent countless hours in holding cells or emergency department exam rooms waiting to be evaluated. If facility staff determine that involuntary commitment is necessary, it is usually many more hours before a designated crisis responder can arrive to do the necessary assessment to make that happen.
If King County had a dedicated mental health crisis-care facility, those hours could be used more productively. Surely most police officers would prefer to shift responsibility for dealing with severe psychiatric crises over to mental-health professionals.
Ming Chen, Seattle