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Seattle City Council, mayor discuss 911 response alternatives

City officials discussed a plan Tuesday to roll out a short-term program in 2023 and work on a longer-term plan in the meantime.

SEATTLE — Seattle City Council's Public Safety and Human Services Committee discussed progress on efforts toward alternative 911 responses on Tuesday.

City staff and a representative from Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell's office discussed a Terms Sheet that lays out how they hope to work together moving forward through the process and laid out a rough timeline for what comes next.

"Even though we're not everywhere we may want to be at this point in the year, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that has been happening," Councilmember Lisa Herbold said.

The effort aims to "diversify 911 responses so the appropriate expert shows up when someone calls for help," according to a Seattle City Council spokesperson.

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The proposal aims to develop a strategy that provides the best possible response to behavioral health crisis calls. It also aims to reduce harm and "provide an equitable system of emergency response that serves the city’s Black, Indigenous and people of color and most vulnerable underserved populations." It is designed to keep first responders available for emergent needs and increase the rate of response for Priority 3 and 4 calls.

The city hopes to develop a short-term program to pilot and learn from during 2023 and work on a longer-term program moving forward.

In a statement Tuesday, Mayor Bruce Harrell's office said it looks forward to collaborating with the City Council to "improve all aspects of our public safety response." It said Harrell is committed to "driving innovations, diversifying response types, and ensuring a holistic approach to public safety that ensures Seattle residents have their needs met swiftly and effectively."

The city of Seattle has been discussing programs for alternative 911 responses for years. In 2021, then-Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Triage One, but it has not come to fruition. On Tuesday, city staff said the $1.2 million that had been allocated toward the program could be used for the program the City Council and the mayor's office are working on now.

In March, University of Washington students proposed an “Alternative Emergency Services” team for the U-District. 

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