King County leaders propose a tax levy for behavioral health clinics

For people in the midst of a mental health crisis, there are no public clinics available in King County. Now, there is an effort to change it.

Today, elected leaders, including King Dow County executive Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, announced plans for not one, but five crisis centers. KUOW’s Paige Browning spoke to Kim Malcolm about the development.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Kim Malcolm: What did the officials announce today?

Paige Browning: A great collaborative proposal. Not only does the county have no walking mental health centers, it has also lost more than 100 residential treatment beds and the county wants to bring those back as well.

Why the urgency on this issue now?

Behavioral health, including mental health and substance abuse disorders, is a crossroads where all kinds of other problems are encountered: the ability to afford rent or utilities, to take care of oneself and to care for of the family. Officials have determined that this intersection has been overlooked in some way and needs attention now. King County Council member Girmay Zahilay is one of several government officials who have made this proposal:

“If you break a bone in King County, you can go in and get urgent care. If you are going through a mental health crisis or a substance use disorder crisis, you have no urgent care options for a population of 2.3 million. And that’s why we see so many of our brothers and sisters, our family members, our neighbors suffering outdoors from a mental health crisis, or feeding their addictions at bus stops, or riding bicycles. between the emergency room and prisons and the homeless. there is nowhere for people to go. “

What needs to happen for these crisis clinics to open?

Three steps really. One, the county council will soon vote on whether to approve it as a ballot measure. Second, it would go to voters as a tax levy next April. Three, if the voters approve it, start the tax and start bringing in money. The first step in getting him to vote is almost official, since most of the county council is already supporting this proposal.

This won’t happen without voter approval and lots of funding. Tell us how it would be paid.

In short, a property tax. The county has determined that it needs $ 1.25 billion to do it. The levy would be added to the property tax bills for nine years. In simple math, it would cost the average homeowner about $ 10 a month. This would bring in the money to put those centers and elements of a behavioral health system in place.

People know that it is not easy to get the care or care that you or your loved one need in this area. Once the clinics are up and running, who could use them?

Anyone could enter these clinics and receive treatment: someone with financial or insurance means, someone without insurance, someone who has a substance abuse crisis or a mental health emergency could simply come in and be treated and / or referred to the right place. .

For a broader context, Washington ranks sixth in the nation for the highest prevalence of mental illness among adults. It’s 2021. About 2 in 10 adults in Washington are living with a behavioral disorder or disease. And it’s widespread among children, so much so that Governor Jay Inslee has declared a juvenile mental health crisis in the past year, so the need is there.

Do we know where these clinics would go?

There are no exact locations yet, but I can tell you one area for sure, North King County. In a way, this is where the whole discussion began. Aside from that, we don’t know the exact locations, but one will please young people.

Crisis structures are a part of a broader behavioral health plan announced today. What else is proposed?

Also included are plans to reopen dozens of beds in mental health care facilities that have been closed due to funding problems: 100 places in residential care facilities have been closed since 2008. And one final part of the package is the creation of career paths to enable people to enter behavioral health workforce, such as apprenticeships, training and fair wages for people joining this workforce.

Listen to the interview by clicking on the play button at the top.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *