‘Art of Compromise’ needed to pass behavioral health tax increase

Health
Finally, Council passed an ordinance to adopt a one-tenth of one percent tax for behavioral health. First, a little history. In 2016 I introduced, and Council supported, the idea to conduct a study on Pierce County’s behavioral health system. In 2018, I requested an addendum to that report. The study acknowledged we have several great providers making good efforts in Pierce County, but we lacked a systemic approach to addressing patient needs. There were also recommendations for how to improve the system. Also in 2016, I introduced an ordinance to pass the behavioral health tax. At the time we received numerous emails, heard from behavioral health providers and held a town hall meeting where 500 people showed up, the majority of them to show support for the tax. When it…
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Why I left Tuesday’s Council meeting

Health
On Tuesday, I did something I have never done in my 18 years in elected office: I excused myself and left a Council meeting. It was not a decision I made lightly and I’d like to share why. Ordinance 2020-136 was before Council and proposed terminating a nearly 50-year-old agreement with the city of Tacoma that provides fiscal oversight and contributions from both governments, as well as policy decisions, for a joint city-county run public health department. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department runs independently, and its policies are based on science and not politics. It is overseen by a Board of Health made up of representatives from the County Council, Tacoma City Council, one mayor from the Small Cities and Towns organization, and a doctor chosen by Pierce County Medical Society.…
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Wearing a mask does not mean I ‘live in fear’

Health
It’s no secret, we’re seeing a third surge in positive covid cases in Pierce County. Recent case counts continue to follow an upward trajectory, erasing the efforts we put forward earlier this year to reduce the transmission of this deadly virus. Health experts are warning this will continue as more people move indoors and as the holidays approach. Beating this virus is a marathon and not a sprint. People need to heed the advice of state and local health officials and continue to follow the guidance that is proven to reduce transmission of covid-19. I believe it is important that people understand wearing a mask and practicing social distancing is an act of kindness. It is frustrating to see this simple step create divisions in our community. I have worn…
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COVID-19 impacts on behavioral health

Health
A few years ago, the County Council established the Mobile Community Intervention Response Team to address a high number of calls to 911 that needed assistance, but not by traditional first responders like law enforcement or fire and rescue personnel. The program pairs a behavioral health professional from Comprehensive Life Resources (CLR), with a sheriff’s deputy or someone within emergency medical services. Together the team refers and connects people experiencing mental illness, substance abuse or other unmet medical needs with therapeutic outreach services. Prior to this program, many of these people ended up in jail or emergency rooms – all costly interventions that often resulted in repeat calls for service once individuals were released. Recently, the Council’s Human Service Committee received a report about the impact of COVID-19 on the…
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