Due to a dramatic increase in calls involving individuals in crisis, the Bellevue Police Department recognizes the need to imagine new ways to respond to these calls and ensure the best outcome for the individual, their family and the community by diverting them out of the criminal justice system and providing an alternative pathway to address their mental health and behavioral crisis.
In response, Bellevue Police created the Community Crisis Assistance Team in collaboration with the Fire Department. CCAT was a four-month pilot program occurring between May 1 and Aug. 31, 2021. During the pilot, CCAT tested three different program models to determine which worked best for Bellevue residents. After Bellevue City Council approved permanent funding for the program, the CCAT team began permanent operations on September 1, 2023.
The program models all featured officers teaming with mental health professionals from Bellevue Fire CARES to co-respond to calls requiring crisis response and social services. While every Bellevue police officer is trained in crisis intervention and de-escalation, CCAT members received extensive training in responding to crisis situations. This training included mental health first aid, crisis intervention, trauma and other topics applicable to their new role in the co-responder model.
Goals and Desired Outcomes
- Improve community/police response to persons suffering from a behavioral health crisis by connecting them with appropriate social services and diverting them away from the criminal justice system
- Address underlying issues to improve the quality of life of others
- Reduce recidivism
Desired outcomes were to reduce:
- The number of individuals arrested
- The number of individuals booked into jail
- The number of unnecessary hospital emergency room visits
- The occurrences of police use of force
Several community stakeholders, including medical institutions and homeless outreach organizations, were consulted during the development of the program to identify the needs of those served, gaps in existing emergency services and process improvements needed to get treatment for those in crisis.
CCAT tested three types of models during the pilot:
- One non-uniformed police officer with specific mental health training and one mental health professional (MHP) working as a team in one vehicle.
- Two non-uniformed police officers with specific mental health training working as a team in one vehicle.
- Two CARES Mental Health Professionals (MHP) responding to police calls when requested by uniformed police officers on the scene.
Two key features were necessary for the success of the program:
- Calls involving behavioral health crises needed to be diverted specifically to CCAT units by 9-1-1 dispatch.
- The CCAT team needed the ability to follow up with those contacted after the initial crisis was over.
The final evaluation showed CCAT was highly successful in diverting people from jails and hospitals, decreased police use of force, and significantly increased the amount of time CCAT officers spent on calls. Further, the evaluation provides evidence the CCAT team was highly effective in accomplishing the goals and outcomes laid out prior to the pilot.