Kirkland’s approach to mental health response – Interview with Councilmember Neal Black

Proposition One – The Crisis Care Centers Levy is on its way to being approved by voters in King County. It will fund five new crisis care centers in the coming years. But, one King County city is ahead of the curve and will be opening their own mental health crisis center next spring.

In this episode of All Policy is Local, Seattle City Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis interviews Kirkland Councilmember Neal Black about his city’s work to bring this critical resources online. The councilmembers also talk about the new dual dispatch system Kirkland has created to help get people there by sending mental health professionals to crisis calls along with police officers.


2:37 | What Seattle can learn from the way Kirkland responds to people in mental health crisis

Councilmember Black talks about the work Kirkland did in the wake of George Floyd’s murder to reimagine how the city responds to mental health crisis calls. The city now has a dual-dispatch style system in place where both police and mental health professionals are dispatched to crisis calls. The Seattle City Council included funding for a similar program in the budget last fall, however the program has not yet been put into action.

15:10 | How Kirkland created their own mental health crisis center

Councilmember Black shares insights and lessons learned about how Kirkland went about creating their own mental health crisis center, well before King County’s Proposition One went to the ballot.

21:00 | The ‘no wrong door’ system

The crisis center will run on a “no wrong door” system. The councilmember explains what that is and why it’s so important for the success of the center.

21:45 | Where the mental health crisis center will be built

The buildings that house mental health crisis centers must meet very specific requirements. Councilmember Black talks about what went into finding the perfect location and why it’s so difficult.

28:38 | What happens when people leave treatment and need housing?

Kirkland’s Council has had a strong focus on housing, passing its own missing middle housing bill in 2020 to create more affordable housing and essentially make single family zoning illegal in city limits. Councilmembers Black and Lewis talk about how addressing King County’s housing crisis and supporting people exiting mental health treatment are intrinsically connected.