Dedicated Care for Those in Crisis
We have all seen the impact of mental health issues on our community.
Some of it is personal – a family member suffering from depression or a friend feeling overly anxious, making us feel helpless.
Some of it is visual – the homeless person wandering the street, talking to themselves and making us concerned.
Regardless of how we experience the mental health crisis, we need to find solutions that work for those who are suffering.
King County needs to make massive bold new investments in mental health and addiction services.
Right now, when first responders encounter someone struggling on the streets, they basically have three options:
- transport the individual to the emergency room;
- take them to jail if a crime has been committed; or
- leave them in the community.
None of these options address the mental health crisis and none of them solve the problem long-term – for the individual or the community.
I’m excited that the County is bringing together experts to develop a response to this crisis, and I particularly support one of the preliminary approaches that is being discussed:
Dedicated care centers for people in crisis.
…places open 24/7 where first responders can bring people who need mental health care, and where folks can walk in or be brought by families or friends when they need help.
…places where someone can be seen right away by behavioral health experts and get support from people who have been through crises similar to their own.
…places where someone can stay for a week or two to get stabilized and connected with ongoing help.
Researching best practices around the country, we discovered this approach is being used very successfully in Arizona. By creating a regional network of care centers, King County could help thousands of people every year.
We need to destigmatize mental health issues and encourage people to ask for help.
Unfortunately, too many people are suffering in silence or waiting until things escalate out of control because of stigmas associated with mental health care.
And too many people don’t have affordable timely access to mental health services.
That’s why I want us to propose an expansion of the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy when it is on the ballot for renewal in November 2023. The new funding should be dedicated specifically to mental health and addiction services—not just for care centers, but for other services including mental health services for youth.
So when people ask for help, we have a system in place to help.
New Lightrail Station Brings More Housing to South King County
You may have driven by the emerging Light Rail station across from Highline College and wondered what will happen with the extra land once the station opens.
This surplus land – ten acres right next to the new station – will be offered first to developers who will build affordable housing so that people who work in our community can afford to live in our community.
People like our teachers, our retail workers and our bus drivers.
Because we can’t continue to see our communities torn apart by the displacement that comes from high housing costs—displacement that can be made worse by the arrival of light rail.
That’s why we need to be smart about using this publicly owned land for public benefit—to help prevent displacement and to provide more affordable housing and community spaces in South King County.
I was proud to secure $10 million in County housing dollars for this site to support the development of affordable housing.
And when the Sound Transit Board recently met to discuss the future of this land, I proposed an amendment the development plan to ensure that Sound Transit will prioritize and maximize affordable housing at the site as part of a broader development that includes businesses, community spaces and housing for people of all income levels.
My amendment PASSED the Sound Transit Board, and I hope that in the next ten years we will see this area become home to whole new community – a vibrant diverse community that allows people to remain in South King County.
Youth Ride Free Year-Round Beginning Sept. 1
With summer winding down and school restarting, I’m excited to say that legislation I sponsored to create a free youth transit pass is now the law of the land.
Everyone under nineteen can now ride transit for free in King County.
This includes not just Metro buses, but also Sound Transit.
The free youth transit pass will save a ton of money for some families, help connect young people with jobs and a world of opportunity, and will eliminate the challenges of youth fare enforcement.
This change is also likely to result in more young people riding the bus—and hopefully continuing as adults—reducing traffic congestion and climate pollution for everyone.
Thank you to the State Legislature for providing the grant funding to make this possible.
Learn more about how to get a free youth pass here: https://info.myorca.com/
ORCA LIFT Fare Reduced to $1
In other good news, the ORCA LIFT fare has been reduced to $1 instead of the current fare of $1.50.
ORCA LIFT is the program for discounted transit for low-income riders. This change comes as part of a coordinated effort with Sound Transit—which is also reducing the low-income fare to $1.
The ORCA LIFT program began in 2015 and has enabled thousands of low-income residents access our region’s public transportation systems at a more affordable rate.
For years now though, riders have been providing feedback that the $1.50 charge remained a cost burden and meant they had to choose which trips to take and which to forego.
With this new lower rate, I hope this burden will be eliminated and the program’s original goal of helping everyone use the transit system – regardless of their income – can be achieved.
The eligibility for ORCA LIFT remains the same, so please visit King County Metro’s website to see if you or your household qualify:
As always, I value your thoughts, ideas and input.
Please feel welcome to contact me via email at [email protected]
We take general public comment on the 4th Tuesday of every month.To learn more about testifying before Council go to: https://www.kingcounty.
King County Councilmember
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