After losing social workers, local police departments find temporary solution

Just over a month after Compass Health canceled its contract providing social workers to assist police in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, the three cities have found a temporary fix.

In Edmonds, the city council on Tuesday approved acceptance of an $51,000 Association of Washington Cities grant to fund a full-time social worker for 4.5 months. Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett said the grant will buy some time until a long-term solution is found.

The funding will ensure that the city’s current social worker Erin Nathan can stay in her job as a limited term employee even though Compass has canceled its program.

“There isn’t any money in the general funds to fund the social workers,” Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett told the council, “so our best options currently are the grant money, applying for additional grant, or taking a look at our opioid settlement money.”

The cities of Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, meanwhile, are teaming up to share a social worker through the Snohomish County Human Services SCOUT program.

Social worker Holly Shelton “will be splitting her time between Mountlake Terrace PD and Lynnwood PD each week,’ said Mountlake Terrace Police Commander Scott King.

“We are happy to be providing these services to our community members again and are looking forward to our partnership with SCOUT,” King said. “Our hope is that we can make this program permanent. We will be figuring that out in the next couple months.”

Working in partnership with police, social workers can provide individuals with a range of services, including mental health and substance use treatment, medical care, shelter assistance and food vouchers.



  1. The city spends a generous amount on a cadre of special interest consultants, but has no money for a cost-effective social worker? Priorities?

  2. Brian D, your point is valid. My perspective is that a social worker in the police dept has become a core city service- something the city HAS to provide. The city should be spending wages + benefits money on this function, not a consultant with no benefits. It’s no less important than any other police dept employee. I would like to know the amount the Dept spent on overtime to-date, while saying they had no money to fund the social worker position. I would like to know what a 10% reduction in the mayor and all the director positions’ wages would amount to. My back of the envelope calculation is $80K. So deny all overtime in the police dept, cut the upper mgmt wages by 10%, and fund a new FTE position that is a social worker. Isn’t that budgeting by priorities?

  3. Doesn’t cancellation of the Compass contract free up monies to be paid to Ms. Shelton??? It seems the sum should have equalled or exceeded Shelton’s pay from Compass. What am I missing here?

  4. Since our Court System says Police can’t arrest and/or jail someone for not having any home but a public space unless they have temporary free (public expense) housing to offer them, one would think a social worker or two on just about any mid-size or larger City Police force would almost be an essential part of their business. I guess they could try to recruit an MSW graduate for an officer position with dual areas of expertise that might suffice but that would be a big ask for HR. We seem to have money for big time planning directors and expert consultants, and purchasing Land for public/private housing adventures but when it comes to public safety and human services – “sorry, we are down to our last dollar.” I’ve kind of given up on trying to talk any sort of common sense to the people we keep electing around here. People of independent thought and a “make what you already have work” mentality need not apply for public office in Edmonds.

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