In the Western prairies of Spokane County, an extraordinary initiative has taken root, aiming to create a safer and more engaged community. The West Plains Safety Alliance (WPSA) is a testament to the power of collaboration and community-driven efforts.
WPSA focuses their mission on “identifying prevention, intervention, and suppression needs of the communities in which they serve” (West Plains Chamber). By offering resources, programs, and a support network, they have been able to positively impact the lives of vulnerable youth and their families. By providing case management services, outreach events, and youth prevention programs in local schools, they address the unique needs of families and create tailored solutions for their well-being. Their efforts are not only focused on providing immediate assistance but on addressing the underlying causes that contribute to challenges faced by troubled youth.
Starting as a grassroots movement that quickly gained momentum, the alliance was born in 2020, shortly after Brad Richmond was named police chief of the City of Airway Heights. Richmond was already working hard on similar endeavors with the Spokane County Sheriff’s office and their outreach programs and was eager to extend this work to his new role. Recognizing her commendable service in Spokane, Richmond contacted Alise Mnati, current grants administrator and program coordinator, and invited her to extend her efforts to Airway Heights and further this vision. Mnati, originally a volunteer for the mission, eventually transitioned into a full-time role as a city employee in March, 2023, due to the alliance’s rapid growth and successful grant acquisitions.
Mnati, reflecting on the alliance’s journey, encapsulates its essence by emphasizing the value of teamwork. “It’s really about not taking credit, or being possessive,” she explains. “It’s about working together. [It] makes this particular group unique.” Represented by over 45 committee members, WPSA transcends competition and territorialism. The focus is on communal success, rather than individual acclaim, and the involvement of a multitude of community partners is crucial in achieving this shared goal.
A significant achievement in the WPSA’s narrative was securing a $250,000 grant from the Washington Department of Commerce, known as the Community Law Enforcement Partnership (CLEP) grant. This funding has allowed WPSA to not only continue to sustain their crucial work but also allocate resources for overtime hours for law enforcement officers engaged in community outreach.
Under the expansive umbrella of WPSA, a standout program has emerged – the Police Adventure League, initiated in the summer of 2022. Spearheaded by Officer Carbaugh, a Youth Engagement Specialist (YES) officer, this program aims to keep underserved and vulnerable youth engaged during the summer months when school is out. The league provides outdoor experiences, team-building activities, and overnight trips, fostering personal growth and community bonds.
The impact of WPSA’s initiatives is evident in pre- and post-surveys conducted among participants in the Police Adventure League. Consistently, students report increased positive responses in things like conflict resolution, communication skills, and behavioral health, highlighting the program’s effectiveness in strengthening family relationships and helping youth overcome their perceived limitations. “This program is a great way to keep our young teens out of trouble while having a great time practicing life skills and going on outdoor adventures that help motivate them to put their phone down and enjoy being a kid,” says the testimony of one parent, further underscoring the positive influence WPSA has on the community.
Beyond the Adventure League, WPSA’s current priorities demonstrate a commitment to addressing pressing issues such as human trafficking and domestic violence. Mnati advocates for a proactive approach by creating regional, multidisciplinary teams to tackle these issues head-on. With Spokane County having the highest rates of domestic violence in the state of Washington, it is vital to confront these dangers. Noting plans for significant development in the area of Airway Heights, Mnati recognizes both the benefits and potential impacts of the community’s growth, highlighting the need for awareness, information, and resource contacts for victims. “Let’s address these issues now, and have services in place beforehand,” she explains.
The alliance conducts comprehensive needs assessments, relying on extensive data to identify and prioritize issues. This data is more than just acknowledging the uplifting feelings after engagement services; the data itself is a major factor in propelling the alliance forward. Looking at crime data, healthy youth survey data, and school and discipline data, WPSA also recognizes the importance of the overall perception of the community. Mnati notes that it isn’t solely about which issues are prevalent in the area, but also how community members perceive the severity of these issues, as well as the urgency to address them.
For those eager to contribute to this transformative cause, WPSA welcomes new partners, donations, and enhanced community involvement. Local businesses can play a pivotal role by making monetary donations. Thanks to the increase of community awareness and a multimedia impact, WPSA stands tall, having secured over $3 million in grants at this point. The alliance continues to evolve, embodying the spirit of collective action and community-driven change. With each initiative, WPSA not only strengthens the fabric of the community but also sets an inspiring example for others to follow.
To learn more about WPSA and join the movement, visit https://cawh.org/west-plains-safety-alliance/