Members of Region’s High Barrier Individuals Working Group Announce New Pilot Programs to Focus on Individuals Cycling through the Criminal Justice System in Seattle and King County

Four New Pilot Strategies Aim to Address Intersection of Homelessness Crisis, Criminal Legal System, Behavioral Health, Substance Use Disorders with Multi-Disciplinary Approach across Jurisdictions

Mayor Durkan, Executive Constantine Investing in Pilot Programs in Their Respective Budgets for 2020

Seattle (September 12, 2019) – Members of the region’s High Barrier Individuals Working Group today announced four new pilot programs that will focus on people cycling through the criminal legal system in Seattle and King County.

The pilots include: a comprehensive place-based treatment center at the “West Wing” of the King County Correctional Facility; a “rapid re-entry connector” program to plan for the release of individuals from jail; “HB probation” to provide better support and accountability; and “case conferencing” by dedicated law enforcement and services staff to develop a coordinated plan for the most high-impact individuals. The pilot programs will begin to be implemented in late 2019 and early 2020.

Convened by Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan earlier this year, the members of the High Barrier Individuals Working Group have met every other week to explore new strategies, systemic reforms or partnerships needed for a more focused approach to repeat offenders who are not receiving the appropriate interventions. Its member have included: The Office of the Mayor; Office of the King County Executive, Seattle Police Department; Seattle City Attorney’s Office; the King County Prosecutor’s Office; Public Health Seattle-King County; the Seattle Municipal Court; the King County Superior Court; staff from the Seattle City Council, the King County Department of Public Defense, the City of Seattle’s Human Services Department; the King County Department of Community and Human Services, and representatives from Pioneer Human Services and the University of Washington.

“This is an important step for Seattle and our entire region. These issues require coordinated efforts across many systems. The complex intersection of behavioral health, substance use disorders, and the criminal justice system, deserved a more focused approach across jurisdictions in our region. While no single jurisdiction oversees all the tools, programs, or resources needed to address these challenges, it was clear residents and employers expected us to work together and make meaningful progress,” said Mayor Durkan. “I am grateful to the members of this Working Group for their tireless work, invaluable perspective, and commitment to this important work. We will continue to meet regularly and constantly assess the performance of these new programs as they are implemented, so we can ensure we are investing in the most effective solutions.”

“We know that combining housing and services is the best way to help people lead a more secure and stable life. Expanding the West Wing Enhanced Shelter will make a difference in people’s lives, and in the lives of our communities. Everyone deserves the opportunity to reclaim their health and their future. Our new initiatives will open the door to that opportunity and provide us with evidence and data to innovate even further,” said County Executive Dow Constantine.

“These strategies are designed to increase the capacity to make connections between justice-involved individuals and stabilizing services,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. “Our approach will continue to focus on balancing traditional prosecution and the things we know work to help people do less harm to themselves, and thus less harm to their neighborhood.”

“As evidenced by the cyclical nature of this high barrier population’s behavior, without direct intervention and enhanced investment in mental health, chemical dependency treatment, and housing options, this population is extremely likely to reoffend upon completion of their respective sentences,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. “Improved communications between offices and enhancements in addressing people’s underlying challenges, including substance abuse and mental health issues, is a smart approach and one I hope will enhance public safety.”

Summary of Pilot Program 1: Enhanced Shelter with On Demand Behavioral Health Services

Under this pilot program jointly funded by the City and King County, the County will create a 60 bed, 24/7 enhanced shelter that will provide on demand behavioral health, supportive housing, and case management services on the second floor of the King County Correctional Facility west wing. Services will be focused on individuals whose combination of long-term homelessness, unmet behavioral health needs, and lack of consistent connection to services and community brings them into frequent, expensive, and unsuccessful contact with the criminal legal and emergency medical systems.

A total of $4 million will be allocated for capital and additional $800,000 for program operations.  The City and County will share these costs evenly, and accordingly Mayor Durkan’s Proposed Budget for 2020 includes $2.0 million for capital and $400,000 for operating costs. 

Following investments in the facility, services are expected to begin by mid-2020.

Pilot Program 2: Rapid Re-Entry Connector

Currently, King County Jail Health Services provides limited reentry/release planning services to certain individuals who are in the King County Correctional facility for more than 72 hours. Release Planning staff assess behavioral health, physical health, housing, and other supportive service needs and connect individuals to appropriate services in the community upon release from custody. Yet most individuals booked into jail are released within 12-48 hours and cannot benefit from release planning. This pilot would begin to address the lack of release planning services available for those who rapidly exit the facility. The program would embed a reentry planner position within Jail Health Services who would triage individuals for services from an array of relevant programs such as LEAD, West Wing Enhanced Shelter, as well as community-based treatment, services, and housing. 

The City is also providing additional funding to increase capacity for in-jail substance use disorder assessments. The assessments help determine appropriate level of care and treatment referrals.

Mayor Durkan’s proposed 2020 budget adds $212,500 for the pilot program. The program is expected to begin in early 2020.

Pilot Program 3: HB Probation

The HB probation pilot program would feature a smaller, specialized caseload for Seattle Municipal Court probation counselors who have training in harm-reduction and trauma-informed care strategies for a group of high barrier clients.

The counselor will be able to introduce graduated sanctions, offer small incentives for positive behavior, meet with individuals off-site (away from the courthouse) and schedule more frequent review hearings with judges. Balance suspended jail sentences may be offered to provide individuals the opportunity to have their jail sentence shortened if the client is willing to engage in chemical dependency treatment. The probation counselor’s expertise in working with high-needs clients will involve case coordination with other service providers including treatment providers, diversion personnel, Veteran’s Affairs, and others.

Mayor Durkan’s 2020 Proposed Budget adds $170,000 for this pilot program. This new funding would be paired with up to $120,000 of additional Municipal Court resources. If approved by City Council, the program could begin as soon as late 2019.

Pilot Program 4: Case Conferencing & Support by Seattle’s City Attorney’s Office

A case conferencing approach with support by the Seattle City Attorney’s Office will be responsible for coordination across systems and programs, addressing those high barrier individuals involved in diversion programs, court programs or [post-sentencing probation, and working both at a macro level to assess whether existing and proposed pilot programs are working and on individual cases – working to make a meaningful, holistic positive changes in the lives of the individuals who populate the list and the communities impacted by their behaviors.

Mayor Durkan’s 2020 Budget adds $150,000 for an additional Assistant City Attorney position in the Criminal Division to ensure the ability to provide better outcomes and efficient case management.

The program is expected to begin in early 2020.