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King County Executive Dow Constantine announced new options for parents, youth, school personnel and local law enforcement that will divert and reduce the number of youth who come into contact with the courts and detention facilities. The “Safe Spaces” proposal connects youth who may have traditionally gone into the criminal justice system to community-based alternatives that provide supports and crisis stabilization that were previously unavailable.

Youth and families can access counseling, healthcare, treatment for mental health or substance abuse, short-term crisis beds, education and mentoring and employment programs.

The Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee will lead a public engagement effort on the Executive’s proposal, to be concluded by May 31.

“Our goal is to ensure that every youth in King County is supported to achieve his or her full potential. With Safe Spaces, we will help even more of our young people through the rough patches in life, avoid the criminal justice system, and go on to happy and successful lives,” said Executive Constantine. “We can offer tools for youth and families that stabilize an immediate crisis and offer short and long-term services and supports.  By investing early, we can move even farther towards our goal of zero detention.”

Answering the needs of our community

Based on the work of the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee, Safe Spaces is intended for youth aged 11-17 who have been arrested for “status offenses” such as running away or processing tobacco or alcohol, or minor crimes such as shoplifting or fighting.

Bookings for status offenses fell 26 percent between 2012 and 2016. There were 133 bookings for status offenses last year, with an average stay in detention of about 4 days. More than half involved youth who had run away from a foster home, with a judge ordering a Dependency Contempt warrant. About 26 percent of the status offenses admitted to detention were for At Risk-Contempt warrants, which involve youth violating their parents’ wishes, often staying out or not coming home.

When problems escalate and a crisis ensues, families often call 9 1-1, which leads to a law enforcement response. Safe Spaces offers a better alternative.

Safe Spaces: Enhanced community-based crisis response and stabilization

Safe Spaces leverages and expands the work of the current Children’s Crisis Outreach Response System (CCORS) to ensure immediate access to mobile crisis outreach for any youth in crisis, anywhere in King County.

Law enforcement, families, schools and others will have 24-hour support from CCORS teams consisting of therapists, case managers and outreach specialists.

When responding to the home, the outreach team can help to deescalate the crisis and provide in-home services for up to 8 weeks. During this time, they will also ensure timely connections to ongoing community supports to ensure the youth gets back on track and parents and family members have the tools they need to manage any future behavior issues.

When necessary, the outreach team can also access crisis stabilization beds, located at several locations in King County, where youth can stay for up to 14 days, and longer if necessary.

Law enforcement and other first responders will be able to either call for a CCORS outreach team 24/7 or take the youth directly to a crisis stabilization bed.

The CCORS crisis team will have 35 designated crisis stabilization beds available, and is looking to add 11 more in King County. The Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) will develop and distribute clear referral protocols for parents, law enforcement and other partners and conduct training on the expanded CCORS services. In partnership with key stakeholders and community partners, DCHS will evaluate the effectiveness of the new crisis response capacity and assess any additional gaps in the system.

Safe Spaces will be funded by approximately $1 million annually from existing programs.


2017 State of the County address

Children’s Crisis Outreach Response System (CCORS)


Our goal is that all youth in King County will grow up healthy and achieve their full potential. With Safe Spaces, we will help even more of our young people make it through the rough patches, avoid the criminal justice system, and go on to happy and productive lives. We will offer resources for youth and families to find stability during a crisis, as well as long-term services and supports. By addressing challenges early, we can move ever closer to our goal of no youth needing to be detained, and all youth being able to succeed.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Safe Spaces would be an opportunity for law enforcement to offer community based support and services for youth who are in crisis. There are times when we come into contact with youth who do not have a stable home or adult in their life. This type of early intervention and linkage to services has the potential of improving their chances of success.

John Urquhart, King County Sheriff

I embrace Safe Spaces because it will connect youth to mentors in the community. People from the same communities of the youth will provide services, leadership development, and guidance to youths, young adults, and families. This is a great way forward and highlights the commitment we all share to our youth and families.

Dominique Davis, executive director, Community Passageways