The City of Renton is close to funding a program that provides an alternative non-police response to domestic violence and behavioral health crises. The program would put social workers in a position to work with families and survivors of domestic violence to support their needs and prevent future emergencies.
Project Be Free is a Renton-based nonprofit organization that was formed after domestic violence cases increased during the pandemic. The organization developed mobile crisis response teams that work alongside police to provide law enforcement assisted diversion programs, community assistance referral and education programs, with the goals of reducing repeat domestic violence calls, decreasing domestic violence workload for first responders, and connecting underserved Renton residents with appropriate support and referrals to help prevent future instances of domestic violence.
Project Be Free co-founders Katya Wojcik and Joel Thomas partnered with the Renton Police Department for a co-response model in April 2022.
The Association of Washington Cities Alternative Response Team grant award of $135,000 provides funding for the Project Be Free co-response contract from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024, if passed by the city council.
The purpose of the grant, according to the grant documents, is to “assist cities with the documented costs to create co-responder programs within different alternative diversion models including law enforcement assisted diversion programs, community assistance referral and education programs, and as part of mobile crisis teams.”
The grant funding will pay for salary and benefits for a crisis responder and a behavioral health supervisor. Project Be Free staff will respond alongside Renton first responders during domestic violence calls and will connect individuals in crisis with resources and aid as needed, according to the proposed contract.