The City has won a 2019 Association of Washington Cities (AWC) Municipal Excellence Award for the Hot Spotters program. The Municipal Excellence Awards recognize innovative city projects that significantly improve the quality of life for their communities. The competition is open each year to any Washington city or town. Five projects will be honored this year at the AWC’s Annual Conference this June in Spokane.
Hot Spotters is a collaboration between several groups in the community, including the City of Pasco Fire and Police, Lourdes Health, other first responders, legal providers, city and county judges, mental health treatment providers, healthcare providers, community housing organizations, and State health and human services agencies.
The Hot Spotters program is also one of three community health programs highlighted in the 2019 All-America City Awards application which helped garner Pasco's inclusion as an All-America City Award finalist.
From the AWC award application:
For the Pasco Police Department, arriving on a scene involving potential mental health and substance abuse issues has become an increasingly common occurrence. Two officer-involved shootings within a year (2014-15) spurred a review of procedures in relation to mental illness and officer interaction involving use of force options. The City was dedicated to conducting an open dialog with local community groups, organizations, residents, and the ACLU to address concerns regarding how the Police Department dealt with persons with mental illness.
The gaps in communication and services available identified the need for a collaborative team to care and communicate needs and determine community partners. The result was the formation of the Pasco Hot Spotters Program.
The program is a collaboration of first responders, legal providers, city and county judges, mental health treatment providers, healthcare providers, community housing organizations, and State health and human services agencies. Hot Spotters promotes care plans for clients with complex health conditions who over-utilize the health care, emergency response, and legal systems and need special attention to help stabilize their health and living conditions and to promote community wellbeing. Additionally, Hot Spotters is committed to developing strategic plans and pursuing funding to enhance the available services.
In total, Hot Spotters participants have been contacted by law enforcement 124 separate times since fall 2016. All encounters have been without incident requiring no officer involved use of force and resulting in an arrest rate of only 18.8%.
Two significant efforts have emerged from Hot Spotters:
- Embedding Mental Health Professionals in Police Department
Lourdes Health Network, a local hospital and partner in Hot Spotters, pursued State funding (Trueblood Diversion Services) in conjunction with the City to embed mental health professionals. With the strong collaboration efforts demonstrated with Hot Spotters, the funding was awarded and the program was not only implemented in Pasco but eight additional local law enforcement agencies in the region.
Hot Spotters identified housing for the chronically homeless with mental health and/or substance abuse conditions as the biggest barrier to begin efforts for stabilization.
Hot Spotters worked with stakeholders to on a survey through Catholic Charities to evaluate area homelessness and begin community engagement. The survey was completed in late January 2019. The City will create a plan to support a housing project for high risk individuals and seek funding through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program.
“The AWC recognition, along with another finalist designation for the All-America City Award, is significant in that it demonstrates how the Pasco community responds to current and evolving issue” said City Manager Dave Zabell, adding, “while the City plays an instrumental role in the Hot Spotters program, it is more how the Pasco community as a whole is willing to address local challenges.”
The City of Pasco strives to continue improving the quality of life in the community.