It's sunny in Washington…D.C., that is! I am just finishing up five days at the National Association of County Officials (NACo) Conference. I serve on the Community Economic and Workforce Development Policy Committee for NACo and represent Pierce County’s needs and concerns to this committee. I attend these conferences because I am not the kind of person that thinks that I know all the answers to the problems and concerns facing us today. This conference allows me to hear from other county council officials across our country. There are over 3000 counties in the United States.
I am surprised to hear so many concerns similar to those that we are dealing with in Pierce County. Many are concerned with public health, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the loss of Medicaid expansion. We have thousands of people, including many with mental health conditions that did not have medical coverage before ACA and now are covered through Medicaid expansion. Larger counties are trying to figure out how to address those with mental illnesses in our jails. There is overwhelming agreement among conference participants that we need to have resources in our communities to reduce the jail population and increase treatment in the community.
I also discovered that opioid use is a national crisis. I learned what other communities are doing and came back with ideas on how we can better approach this epidemic. I also learned about GIS programming for better data monitoring of crime stats and delivery of services. I can hardly wait to get started on this project!
We know that housing costs are going up in our area daily and affordable housing needs are not unique to Pierce County. Federal grant money has assisted the county to help developers build housing for low income residents. We are in agreement that we must protect those funds.
As members of NACo, we were asked and expected to go to Capitol Hill. So off to the Hill I went. I advocated for the protection of Medicaid, Medicaid expansion and other healthcare needs. Those other needs included mental health, housing programs and transportation infrastructure funding. And because we have a major port, I also advocated for trade policies to help support the Port of Tacoma.
It was good to know Congress is receiving similar messages from many of us in NACo. At the local government level we hear directly from the people we serve and we can’t do it alone. I hope Congress agrees.