Familiar Faces Program Fully Integrated into City’s Operations

Following a three-year trial period, the Familiar Faces Program, which employs peer navigators to help identify and assist individuals with complex health and behavioral issues, became a fully integrated service within the City of Olympia on June 29.
Initially piloted in 2018 as a grant-funded contract with Catholic Community Services, Familiar Faces serves as a way to meet Olympia’s increasingly complex needs for crisis response and public safety. The program specifically addresses individuals who need extra attention but feel more comfortable working with peer navigators than interacting with traditional law enforcement. Perhaps the biggest contributing factor to the trust built between peer navigators and the individuals they assist comes from shared life experiences. Peer navigators can relate directly to the circumstances facing their clients, allowing them to build the kinds of relationships needed to provide impactful help.
“Familiar Faces is based on the recognition that those who have gone through something are the best to help others through it. It is vital that those who need these services are represented,” says Anne Larsen, the outreach services coordinator for the Olympia Police Department (OPD). “This is a transformative program because our peer navigators have the power to transform both our approach to public safety and the lives of people who haven’t been reached as effectively by traditional strategies.”
By providing one-on-one attention and a variety of services, Familiar Faces can tailor its responses to individual needs. After a case is referred to the program by the City or the OPD, the peer navigators work to identify the needs of the individual involved. Services provided by the program include trauma-informed care, permanent supportive housing, treatment for mental-health issues and substance use, and motivational interviewing.
“We found that Familiar Faces offers more resources than a traditional contact with a police officer can. Also, since our officers don’t have to serve as de facto case managers, they have more time to respond to public-safety concerns,” explains Larsen.
The success of Familiar Faces over its first three years led the City to bring the program under its full direction, helping solidify the place of the peer navigators as transformative forces in the community.
Anne Larsen, Outreach Services Coordinator
Olympia Police Department
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