Ground-Level Response and Coordinated Engagement (GRACE) program provides intensive support to people who are frequent users of emergency medical services (EMS), law enforcement (LE), hospital emergency department (ED), and the Whatcom County jail. In 2019, GRACE expanded to include the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which works with people with multiple low-level criminal offenses. Sea Mar Community Health Centers formerly administered the GRACE and LEAD programs.
GRACE and LEAD serve 180-200 people at any given time, with a waiting list of 75-80 people identified through EMS contacts alone. Services are tailored to the specific needs of members, with each member spending dozens of hours with intensive case managers before they “graduate” from the program.
The Whatcom Ground-Level Response and Coordinated Engagement (GRACE) program is a community-based effort to find solutions for individuals who are high utilizers of emergency and criminal justice systems. The aim is to offer intensive, coordinated services to these “familiar faces” whose needs span beyond any single agency.
GRACE serves people often dealing with multiple needs that complicate health care management who are frequent users of EMS. This includes disabilities, medical problems, mental health needs, substance abuse and unstable or no housing. Participants join GRACE through community partner referrals.
The GRACE Program provides intensive case management and coordination of services for people once they become a GRACE member. GRACE Intensive Case Managers work in a team, drawing from the services provided by community partners. They develop a Community Support Plan for each GRACE member to ensure members get coordinated services and ongoing support.
GRACE devotes a significant amount of time and resources to members and has proven to be successful. In 2021, GRACE members’ usage of emergency medical services dropped by 97%, jail bookings dropped by 84%, and emergency department visits dropped by 62%.
GRACE is a partnership funded by the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County. PeaceHealth and North Sound Accountable Communities of Health were both funders in previous years of the program. The program was operated by SeaMar Community Health Center prior to the program's transition to Whatcom County Health and Community Services.
In addition, GRACE case managers often work with the following community partners:
The Whatcom Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program is a community-based effort to find solutions for individuals who are high utilizers of criminal justice systems. The aim is to lead people out of the criminal justice system and into intensive case management where those who are dealing with behavioral health issues can have their needs met appropriately.
LEAD works with people with multiple low-level criminal offences who are experiencing hardships such as mental illness, drug use, and extreme poverty.
The Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office introduced LEAD to our community in 2019 and the program launched in 2020. Multiple organizations have since joined in partnership:
The LEAD program devotes a significant amount of time and resources to members and has proven to be successful. In 2021, LEAD members’ jail bookings dropped by 97%.
Watch the following video to hear voices from the LEAD program and how the program has impacted people within Whatcom County.