YSO's mental health officer talks importance of public interacti - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

YSO's mental health officer talks importance of public interaction

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YAKIMA COUNTY, WA - Every day, law enforcement responders to mental health calls and officers do the best they can dealing with someone who may be in crisis. But for the past year, the Yakima Sheriff's Office has had some extra help. Her name is Friday Bakhos - YSO's designated crisis responder.

Bakhos is originally from California and has an extensive background doing similar work for Warner Brothers, the LAPD and The Red Cross. She spends two days a week exclusively with Yakima Sheriff's deputies, going on all kinds of calls... not just when the call deals with mental health.

"We are able to talk and converse about different things than you'd expect," Bakhos said. "Both of us sort of learn a different lens in between each of the calls." 

But how often does law enforcement respond to mental health calls across the Yakima Valley? It may be surprising, but Bakhos estimates 7 to 16 calls a day. In just one year on the job, Bakhos has noticed how big of an impact her expertise brings to deputies and the calls they go on.

"The families seem so relieved that they have somebody trained there on scene working with somebody who has schizo-affective disorder or some type of difficult disorder," explained Bakhos. "Law enforcement, they're trained, they do hours of training on mental health but it takes years to really know all the diagnoses. To know what to expect, what not to."

This is the first time that YSO has paired up with a mental health professional and had it be successful.

"Being like the first person to do it is always a fun thing in a job. You can't really help that because you just get so excited about trying something new that no one has ever done and it makes you want to try harder," said Bakhos.

She also helps other departments. Last month, she was an actor for de-escalation training for the Yakima Police Department. She also spends two days a week with Union Gap Police and helps Sunnyside PD, Grandview PD, and other departments across Yakima Valley.

"The smaller agencies don't have the mental health capacity that the Sheriffs have, so if I'm not working on a case here then they're always happy to share me with other people," she said.

One of the biggest eye-openers for Bakhos is watching how deputies have to constantly change how they interact with the public going scene to scene.

"They might have to talk with a criminal at one point. Then literally the next call is them trying to help a suicidal little girl," Bakhos explained. "It's like you have to shift your personality in a split second. That's a really difficult thing to do, so I kind of appreciate them for their willingness to juggle that."

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