Clinician responded to 911 mental health calls in Tigard and nearby towns

The Washington County Mental Health Response Team now has a clinician devoted to Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, and King City

by: Amanda Arden

Posted: Jan 5, 2022 / 3:01 PM PSTUpdated Jan 5, 2022 / 3:01 p.m. PST

Crystal Fisher wears a ballistic vest while traveling with police officers on mental health calls. The back of her vest identifies her as a clinician. Photo taken on January 4, 2022. (KOIN)

TIGARD, Ore. (KOIN) – More than half of all police calls in Tigard are related to a mental or behavioral health crisis. Because of this, local law enforcement agencies are working with mental health professionals to provide better relief.

The Washington County Mental Health Response Team has served people across the area for years. However, in the summer of 2021, a new mental health response team was formed that will deploy a clinician to the cities of Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, and King City in southern Washington Counties.

The aim is to respond to emergency calls about mental or behavioral health in these cities with police officers and a master’s level clinician.

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Crystal Fisher was the clinician charged with the task.

“It’s good to have someone in the southern cities, like Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, and King City, just to make it go faster [response] and things like that, ”she said.

Fisher is a LifeWorks NW Clinician and spends two weeks with a Tigard police officer, then takes turns and spends the next two weeks with a police officer in one of the other four cities. Regardless of which team she works on, if necessary, she may be asked to respond to calls for a crisis across the South City area.

Fisher travels with officers in their patrol car. She said they respond to a variety of calls, including calls from people who have an anxiety attack, someone who is harming themselves, or calls from family members who are worried about a loved one. She said every day is different.

Tigard Police Officer Samuel Northcote, second from left, stands next to clinician Crystal Fisher and two other officers she will be working with in the area to respond to mental and behavioral health emergency calls. Photo taken on January 4, 2022. (KOIN)

Fisher received radio communications training and defense tactics training. She also always wears a ballistic vest when riding with officers.

The officials and clinicians provide personal crisis assessment and assessment, counseling with families and other professions, referral for drug assessment, psychiatric counseling, hospital diversion, flexible funding for emergency housing, transportation and many other services.

Fisher said they don’t just help with acute needs. You can connect people with ongoing services, health insurance, and other forms of long-term support.

Officer Samual Northcote teams up with Fisher for her weeks with the Tigard Police Department.

“It de-escalates a lot of people and gives us a lot of tools and resources that we didn’t have immediately before. Washington County had the MHRT for over a decade. But now that it’s so easier to access, we can use it more often without drawing too many resources from outside the city, ”he said.

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Northcote said it thought the program was very important and said community members recognize the work of the mental health response team in the city. He said he wished the Tigard police could have a clinician patrolling the city full time.

The MHRT South Cities team is currently a one-year pilot program operated under an intergovernmental agreement between Washington County and the cities of Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood and King City. The Tualatin Police Department secured a community police grant from the US Department of Justice to pay the clinician’s expenses on behalf of the cities for a year.

Current funding will expire on June 30, 2022, but the agencies hope to raise more funding to make the program permanent.

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