BEND, Ore. - Bend police said Thursday they have received a nearly $200,000 federal grant to hire someone who will act as a coordinator between the area's law enforcement and mental health agencies.
The timing of the $196,000 grant award comes following the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C., and the Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage -- crimes connected by shooters who had mental health problems that someone in the system already was aware of.
Police say a fragmented system makes it more difficult to get help for people suffering from mental health issues, and that leaves the public more vulnerable.
The federal Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded the grant from its Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program.
Bend police Lt. Chris Carney says the goal is to prevent major mental health crises throughout the region.
"We see that it is that important to our community, not just to Bend but all of Deschutes County," Carney said. "People suffering from mental illness impact everybody in Central Oregon, and really. that's our goal -- to do what we can and really provide the best community environment for everybody."
It was a nearly year-long process to get the grant, which begins Oct. 1. The department plans to hire someone shortly after that and begin training immediately.
Meanwhile, Bend Police Chief Jeff Sale told city councilors Wednesday night that spending $635,000 to add staff would cut traffic deaths in half.
Sale said he'll request in next year's budget two new officers, a corporal, administrative assistant, court clerk, two new police cars and a motorcycle, among other items.
More patrols will have a direct impact on reducing traffic crashes and deaths, the chief told councilors, also noting that added officers will boost revenue from writing tickets.
Councilors made no decisions on the early request but said it will be part of the city's budget discussions in the coming months.