Sometimes I feel like Bill Murray in the movie, “Groundhog Day”. He wakes up every day and it is the same as the day before. Just in case you didn’t hear, the council voted on a one tenth of one percent sales tax for behavioral health last December. It failed on a vote of 4-3, four supporting the increase and three against it. Sounds contradictory, but we need a super majority of five to pass a tax. So that is why we continue to see so many with behavior health conditions wandering and living on our streets.
So the council is back to looking how we can address the needs of behavioral health in Pierce County. There have been a lot of meetings and a lot of research in the last couple of years to study the breadth and depth of the problem. In preparation for the vote this past December, we had an analysis done on the behavioral health system throughout Pierce County. And we received many recommendations. The County’s Human Services Department, (formerly Community Connections) took the study’s results and worked with a number of stakeholders to develop a plan. Much of the recommendations from the analysis and the stakeholders required funding which led to the vote on the tax.
Back to Groundhog Day. Council Chair Doug Richardson, formed an Ad Hoc Committee on Human Services made up of three councilmembers, of which I am the chair. Our first order of business is to review and implement the recommendations in the analysis and stakeholders’ plan that do not require minimal to no funding. I see it as building the foundation for a behavioral health system in Pierce County; assembling collaborators, identifying data points, providing a system for data gathering and sharing, and developing outcomes and evaluations. Process and planning…someone has to do it and I love this kind of stuff, so I am happy to address this challenge head on! This is step one of our approach to respond to the needs of behavioral health. Next will come the programing piece: direct services. For that we will need the community’s support. That’s you.
So, here we are again…more study and review, sometimes necessary to get the solutions that we and the public are striving for. I hope the results are different this time. The people with behavioral health conditions can’t wait any longer.