Pullman police receive grant for mental health resources

Grant money will be used to create response teams, peer counseling training



Gary Jenkins will serve as the WSU Police Department’s interim police chief as WSU conducts a nationwide search for a permanent chief.

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

The Pullman Police Department received a $114,974 grant to improve its mental health resources for officers. 

Pullman PD will use the grant to form crisis and medical incident response teams, Pullman PD Cmdr. Jake Opgenorth said. 

“They’ll be trained specially in crisis intervention, mental health, and providing that outlet for officers to open up and speak up about what’s going on,” Opgenorth said. 

The grant will also be used by the WSU Police Department and Moscow Police Department, Pullman PD Chief Gary Jenkins said. 

“We’re going to work with the WSU PD and the Moscow PD to have members of each department to attend peer counseling training amongst all three agencies,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the department applied for the grant in May, and it was approved Oct. 14. 

Opgenorth said Pullman PD would also like to work on providing clinical stress debrief for officers. 

Jenkins said the grant will impact the community directly by improving officers’ ability to perform their duties under higher pressure.

The grant will be used to improve the ways officers deal with mental health, Opgenorth said. 

“I think it’s gonna be helpful to the department because our front line officers respond to so many tragedies and tragic events,” he said. “The stress builds over time, so we often carry a lot of stress with us. The sooner we recognize that, the better our officers will be.”

Opgenorth said he hopes the community will notice the changes in the police department, although they may not be obvious at first.

“I don’t even know if the mental health challenges that our officers face can be obvious to the public at all,” he said. “But I do hope the public will notice the differences.”

As officers’ overall mental health improves, they will be able to focus more on their responsibilities, Jenkins said. 

“I just think it will facilitate and allow our staff to perform at a higher level and be less impacted by stress as well,” he said.

Opgenorth said he believes the changes implemented at the police department can set an example for other departments in the future.

“We always strive to be a leader in the law enforcement community,” he said. “If developing a wellness program in the law enforcement department helps our partners do the same, that would be good.”

Jenkins said he would like to make more mental health changes to the department in the future but is not sure what that would include. 

“This year we rolled out a staff wellness app that provides mental and physical health help for our staff,” Jenkins said.

Opgenorth said the department would also like to focus on improving physical health for those working there.

“Right now, we’re focused on mental health when it comes to officer well-being,” he said. “I would like to focus on physical health as well because those two are tied to each other. That’s something we can look at in the future.”