Opinion

Caring for our community: Kitsap’s mental health tax

By Kitsap County Commissioners

Poverty and housing issues impact Kitsap residents in many ways. At last month’s Life on the Edge 2.0 Conference in Bremerton, Kitsap County Commissioners met with leaders from Kitsap Community Resources, Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, the Bremerton Police Department and South Kitsap School District and other community members, to address these issues. We talked about bridging the gaps in human services and ways to attenuate these concerns with available funding.

Recognizing and treating mental health is a vital part of the effort to alleviate poverty and homelessness in Kitsap County. In September 2013, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners approved implementation of a one-tenth of one percent local sales tax to augment state funding of mental health and chemical dependency programs and services, and for therapeutic court programs and services. The tax amounts to one penny for every $10 of purchases. Washington state legislators approved a bill allowing counties to raise local sales tax for this purpose in 2005.

We want to publicly thank the volunteer members of our citizen advisory and strategic planning groups who contributed countless hours to help us get funding out to organizations that provide local behavioral health services to Kitsap citizens. Since October 2013, the mental health, chemical dependency, and Therapeutic Court Services Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), established at the same time we approved the new tax, has assisted in obtaining public input through creation of a community survey. The group will provide program oversight to ensure a responsible funding process and support for funding allocation recommendations.

Concurrently, the Behavioral Health Strategic Planning Team was also established. Made up of subject matter experts, this team researches existing local data for behavioral health service needs, available capacities and gaps in service, and makes recommendations to the CAC for funding. Together, these two groups adopted the Kitsap County Behavioral Health Strategic Plan in February 2014.

Examples of local gaps in services identified in the Behavioral Health Strategic Plan eligible for funding include:

• School-based mental health and substance-use prevention education for students to include intervention, assessment, referral and treatment support

Professional development for educators, youth development and community agencies on youth mental health and substance abuse issues, concerns and supportive intervention strategies.

• Suicide prevention, screening and referral options in schools and the community:

• Crisis intervention training for all first responders countywide to respond to calls where mental illness or substance use may be a factor

• Crisis triage/respite and/or drop-off center alternatives for individuals with behavioral health needs not eligible for acute hospital or evaluation and treatment services but who may need short-term, 24-hour services, including assessment and referral

Use of evidence and research-based programs found to decrease depression, suicidal behavior and substance abuse among juvenile justice involved youth

Another major task of the Citizens Advisory Committee was to develop and release a request for proposals (RFP) for funding the gaps in mental health and chemical dependency programs and services, and operation or delivery of therapeutic court programs or services. The RFP was released Feb. 20, with a deadline for proposal on April 18. Approximately $3 million will be awarded to projects or program services delivered between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015.

Available funding through the one-tenth of one percent sales tax provides the means to support a strong, county-wide infrastructure for behavioral health treatment programs and services to benefit Kitsap County youth and adults impacted by chemical dependency and mental illness, as well as our families, schools, workplaces, businesses and communities. We look forward to putting available funds to use to help solve these important issues in our communities.

Charlotte Garrido, Robert Gelder, Linda Streissguth

 

To read the Kitsap County Behavioral Health Strategic Plan, go to www.kitsapgov.com/hs/mhsa/8reports.htm.

All Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Therapeutic Courts Citizens Advisory Board advisory committee meeting notes and agendas, the Ordinance and fact sheets, are posted at www.kitsapgov.com/hs/mhsa/newmhsaboard.htm.

To receive electronic notifications of updates related to the Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Therapeutic Courts Citizens Advisory Board, visit www.kitsapgov.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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