Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Incarceration Reduction and Prevention Task Force?
The IPRTF is a coalition of community members, service providers, elected officials and law enforcement working together since 2015 to transform Whatcom County’s approach to criminal justice and public safety by increasing resources to address underlying causes of incarceration in order to lead people out of the criminal legal system and into supportive services, reducing the chances of re-incarceration. 

Why was the Task Force Created?
Between 1970 and 2014, the number of people in jail in Whatcom County grew almost nine-fold—from 45 to 391 on any given day—while the overall county population only grew two-and-a-half times. In many cases people incarcerated were facing underlying challenges that led to incarceration, including behavioral health and substance use disorder.

What is the Purpose of the Task Force?
Whatcom County is transforming our approach to public safety, from a system primarily focused on incarceration to one investing in equity, public health, and community safety.

TheTask Force makes specific recommendations to safely and effectively: 

  • Reduce incarceration of individuals struggling with behavioral health or substance use disorder.
  • Reduce the number of people in jail awaiting trial who can safely be released.
  • Reduce racial disparities in incarceration.

What is Behavioral Health?
The term Behavioral Health refers to significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behavior.  It is usually associated with distress or impairment in important areas of functioning, or an inability to meet responsibilities at school, home, or work.

What is Substance Use Disorder?
The term Substance Use Disorder refers to the use of alcohol and/or drugs that causes significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and an inability to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home.

What is the Anne Deacon Center for Hope?
The Anne Deacon Center for Hope is a crisis stabilization center serving adults in Whatcom County and the North Sound Region. The Anne Deacon Center for Hope offers short term, in-patient substance use disorder and behavioral health support services. The Anne Deacon Center for Hope opened in January 2021, replacing the old Whatcom County crisis stabilization center with expanded services and double the capacity of the previous facility. Learn more about the Anne Deacon Center for Hope

What is GRACE?
The Ground Level Response and Coordinated Engagement program partners with dozens of health, safety, and community-based organizations to support people often facing multiple health, mental health, substance use issues and traumas.

What is LEAD?
The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program with community members that have multiple low level criminal offenses as the result of mental, behavioral health, or substance use issues, to move from the criminal justice system into support health resources and programs.

What is Co-Response Outreach?
The Co-Response Outreach program partners law enforcement officers with behavioral health professionals to help community members find immediate pathways to the right health services—rather than incarceration. 

How Can I Access Behavioral Health or Substance Use Disorder Services?
Contact the Anne Deacon Center for Hope, which serves Whatcom County and the North Sound Region, if you need behavioral health or substance use disorder services. 

Learn more about the crisis response services provided by the Whatcom County Health Department. 

How Does the Task Force Address Racial Disparities in the Criminal Legal System?
In Whatcom County, when a community member needed help because of behavioral health or substance use disorder, too often they were taken to jail or the emergency room—neither have the resources to help. Research has told us that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color have been disproportionately impacted by this, and overrepresented in our jails and prisons. 

A priority of the Task Force continues to be addressing racial disparities by identifying, reducing, and eliminating barriers to care and services for those historically excluded because of ethnicity, race, or culture. 

Who Are the Task Force Members?
The Task Force is made up of 30 members including concerned community members, community health and human services providers, law enforcement officers and leadership, county and city employees, and elected officials. Learn more about who are the members of the Task Force members.

Who does the Task Force report to?
The Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force is one of many boards and commissions in Whatcom County. The Task Force reports to and works closely with the Whatcom County Council and Whatcom County Executive. The Task Force also serves as the Whatcom County Law and Justice Council, a requirement of state law. 

How is the Task Force funded?
The Task Force is funded from the County general fund. Projects, programs, and facilities that the Task Force recommends and the County or jurisdictions implement are funded from a variety of sources in addition to the general fund, such as grants or the behavioral health fund.

Is the Task Force Responsible for Running Programs?
The Task Force does not directly provide behavioral health or substance use disorder services. The role of the Task Force is to make recommendations to the agencies and departments that are responsible for the programs and services available to the public.

How Can Community Members Be Involved in the Work of the Task Force?
The Task Force is committed to continual listening, learning, and adapting. We take an evidence-based approach to preventing and reducing incarceration. The need for our work and the right set of community supports in service of all our safety and health is continually evolving. 

We invite you to join us at an IPR Task Force meeting. Meetings are open to the public. Community members who attend may provide public comment on issues related to incarceration prevention and reduction efforts in Whatcom County.

The IPR Task Force meets every month. The Task Force subcommittee meetings vary. View the Task Force and committee meeting calendar for up-to-date meeting information.