Community

GRACE is key to restorative justice

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ground-level Response and Coordinated Engagement, or GRACE, is the new proposed program aimed squarely at reducing victimization, saving costs to taxpayers and helping to transform and stabilize the lives of people who need help. The City of Bellingham, Whatcom County Health Department, the Opportunity Council, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center and Whatcom Alliance for Healthcare Advancement teamed up to plan and deliver this program.

The GRACE program works like this: people who come into frequent contact with police, fire, the hospital, courts and jail have the option of getting help and treatment that addresses the underlying causes of why they are so frequently using these services. This is done by case managers coordinated with law enforcement, fire, the jail and the hospital.

Based on evidence from other programs across the state, we know several key pieces need to be in place locally to start to see results for GRACE: We need the new 32 bed Triage facility to come online for mental health and substance use disorder patients, an increase of specially trained Bellingham Police officers and Whatcom County Sheriff’s Crisis Prevention Intervention Team deputies, and referral to services that actually exist—like clean and sober housing and mental health treatment. But perhaps the most important element is a treatment coordination team of professionals from law enforcement, social services, fire and healthcare.

Although several programs in the region were studied, GRACE most closely resembles Everett’s CHART program (Chronic High User Alternate Response Team). After one year, CHART saw a 78 percent decrease in arrests, an 80 percent decrease in Emergency Medical Service contacts and a 92 percent decrease in jail days, saving taxpayers in unrecoverable costs and freeing up those services to respond to emergencies.

In Bellingham and Whatcom County, GRACE could work with individuals who are frequently cited or arrested by police, use emergency medical services frequently and in inappropriate ways, may or may not be homeless, and/or are often in jail. Many of these individuals have psychiatric impairment, chronic mental illness, substance use disorder and other conditions that make their cases complex. GRACE team service providers work together, sharing information to provide the best interventions, treatment and outcomes for its members.

Success for GRACE means more effective use of crisis services and law enforcement, more engagement—and compliance—with treatment and supportive services, less emergency room visits and EMS calls, fewer law enforcement contacts, jail bookings and jail bed days.

A great example of a treatment intervention program that already exists locally is Bellingham Fire Department’s Community Paramedic program. Prior to the program, some individuals called 911 so often that it was the equivalent of shutting down a fire station for half of a year. The Community Paramedic literally performs house calls for patients whose conditions are often chronic and non-emergent and more appropriate for primary care. The patient is then directed to an office-based physician. When problems are more complex, the Community Paramedic involves a team of case managers, who link the patient with other resources.

Interventions like Community Paramedic, when coordinated with other response systems like the hospital, police and intensive case management, have shown that they improve the lives of individuals, reduce crime and victimization. And taxpayers pay for services like police and fire as they are intended to be used. GRACE will be a very important tool among local strategies to end homelessness, curb unwelcome behaviors in our downtown urban center and reduce our jail population.

Dan Hammill is a member of the GRACE planning team and serves as Bellingham City Council’s Ward 3 representative.

Past Columns
A Win for the Birds

July 24, 2019

Road to ‘Nowhere’

June 26, 2019

Game Changes

April 24, 2019

Salish Sea Science

January 23, 2019

Cherry Point Amendments

January 16, 2019

Invest in the Future

September 26, 2018

A Desperate Call

August 29, 2018

Criminalizing Protest

July 18, 2018

Threshold Fund

June 13, 2018

Imprisoned Splendour

May 9, 2018

Pathways to Homeownership

April 25, 2018

Yes on I-1631

April 11, 2018

Divide-and-Conquer

October 11, 2017

Schools and Planning for Growth

September 27, 2017

Electronic Home Monitoring

September 13, 2017

Events
Today
Fall Lynden Craft and Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

My Fair Lady

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Spokes

7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Mixtape

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Wishes and Dreams Call for Art

10:00am|Gallery Syre

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Anacortes Vintage Market's Evergreens and Icicles

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Scream Fair's Camp Fear

7:00pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Matilda the Musical

7:30pm| Lincoln Theatre

Hellingham

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Squawktober

8:00pm|Old Main Theater

Community Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Blaine Senior Center

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Orca Recovery Day Work Party

9:00am|Nooksack River

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Yoga and Detox

9:00am|Community Food Co-op

Blanchard Beast Trail Race

9:00am|Blanchard Forest Lower Trailhead

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am|North Fork Library

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Steam Expo

10:00am|Lynden Middle School

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Your Life is a Story Writer's Group

10:30am|South Whatcom Library

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Fall Festival

11:00am|Camp Korey

Kraut-chi Ferment Class

11:00am|Chuckanut Center

Winter Warmth Drive and Pickup

11:00am|Assumption Church Gym

Art Therapy Workshop

1:30pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Telling Tough Stories

2:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Fables and Tales Upcycle Runway Challenge

6:00pm|Settlemeyer Hall

Concrete Ghost Walk

6:00pm|Concrete Theatre

Brew on the Slough

6:00pm|Maple Hall

Bellingham Hoptoberfest

6:00pm|Civic Way Sportsplex

How I Learned I'm Old

7:00pm|Village Books

Take Me to the River Live

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Skagit Symphony presents Highland Heritage

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Tomorrow
My Fair Lady

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Spokes

7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Wishes and Dreams Call for Art

10:00am|Gallery Syre

Matilda the Musical

7:30pm| Lincoln Theatre

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Trails to Taps Relay

9:00am|Depot Market Square

Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Wild Mushroom Show

12:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Building

Harvest Festival

1:00pm|Centennial Riverwalk

Skagit Topic

2:00pm|Skagit County Historical Museum

What If We All Bloomed?

4:00pm|Village Books

Murder Mystery Dessert Theater

6:00pm|Christ Fellowship Church

Monday
Wishes and Dreams Call for Art

10:00am|Gallery Syre

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Whatcom Housing Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Northwest Paella

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »