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.

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Events
Today
The Spitfire Grill

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Guided Adventures

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An Iliad

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

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Seaside BBQ

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Ferndale Street Festival

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The Phantom Tollbooth

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Sin & Gin Tours

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Dynamic Duos

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Skagit Tours

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Pancake Breakfast

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Fidalgo Bay Day

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Lake Whatcom Park Trail Build

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The art of arrangement

10:00am

The Flower Festival

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Sumas Writers Group

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Blaine Gardeners Market

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Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am

Airfest

10:30am|Bellingham International Airport

Cemetery Tours

11:00am|Lynden Cemetery

Weavings Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Vida Nueva Rugs

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Modern Quilts Final Weekend

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Sumi Fun for All Ages

1:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Summer Jazz Combo

2:00pm|Jansen Art Center

The Poetic Apothecary with Judith Adams

3:00pm|Upper Skagit Library

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Summer Fun in the Park

4:00pm|Blaine's Marine Park

Janie Cribbs and the T.Rust Band

5:30pm|Heart of Anacortes

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Lummi Island Crabfest Dinner

6:00pm|Lummi Island Grange Hall

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Tomorrow
The Spitfire Grill

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Guided Adventures

12:00pm|Skyline Marina

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

The Phantom Tollbooth

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Weavings Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Vida Nueva Rugs

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Modern Quilts Final Weekend

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Community Free Market

11:00am|Flora Street

Dog Days of Summer

11:00am|Whatcom Humane Society

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Big Band Bonanza

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Summerfest

1:00pm| Josh Vander Yacht Memorial Park

La Conner Live!

1:00pm|Gilkey Square

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

International Concerts on the Border

2:00pm|Radost Folk Ensemble

Monday
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Bark Week

12:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Camp Korey Classic Golf Tournament

12:00pm|Eaglemont Golf Course

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

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