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Police Chief: ‘Public Health Crisis’ in Spokane

Paige Browning
Spokane Public Radio

This week, law enforcement and mental health officials have been overloaded in the Inland Northwest. Two people in Spokane and two people in Post Falls have died from domestic violence attacks. These tragedies, plus a rise in self-harm cases, have officials putting the spotlight on mental health.

Most Spokane Police officers are trained in crisis intervention, which chief of police Frank Straub says can help calm incidents before they turn violent. But, Straub says Spokane is in a public health crisis that police alone cannot solve. As far as numbers go, 5,000 domestic violence calls have come in this year in Spokane. And Straub says since Tuesday morning, there have been 40 suicidal person calls in Spokane County.

Straub: “We need to bring the forces and the resources of this community to bear, not just police and sheriff’s deputies, but all resources n this community.”

The chief says there is a gross lack of funding for mental health resources. The police department formerly had a domestic violence task force, and Straub says the community needs to find a way to fund that again.

Straub: “We have to expand programs like the youth basketball program, like the police youth initiative, connecting our young people to mentors, so that they don’t go down a road that they don’t need to go down. They don’t need to be exposed to violence, and if they are, they need to be able to talk to somebody who can help them work through that.”

It has been an exceptionally violent week. Tuesday, a man walked into his wife’s work and killed her, then himself. Also Tuesday, a Post Falls man killed a woman and her child. Wednesday, a woman wielding a knife at a Sandpoint hospital was killed by police. In Spokane, officers successfully prevented a suicide Wednesday, and prevented a man from doing serious physical harm this morning (Thursday).

Frontier Behavioral Health says if you know someone who is a threat to themselves or other, you can call them at 509-838-4428. In emergency, call 911 first.

Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio

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