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Advances on Mental Health and Safety

After months of debate, the Pierce County Council passed a supplemental budget in June. I cosponsored the bill and compromise amendment because it makes major investments in areas that are important to the Key Peninsula and the rest of Pierce County.

Behavioral Health

We are making investments in three different mobile approaches to treating people with behavioral health problems:

  1. Mobile Intervention Response Team (MIRT):This is a new trial based on one from Bexar County, Texas (San Antonio area). It’s a proactive unit with nurses, mental health treatment providers and social workers that visit people in need where they are. This is intensive, difficult work and takes time to build trust with patients, but if successful we can transition people suffering from serious chronic behavioral health problems to more traditional treatment. There’s $410,000 in the budget for this proof of concept.
  2. Mobile Outreach Crisis Teams (MOCT):This is an existing program operated on contract through Pierce County’s Behavioral Health Organization (Optum). It’s designed to be an emergency response that citizens and agencies can call on in case of a behavioral health crisis. Unfortunately, its funding from the state has slid over the years, so they’re unable to reach many cases in a timely fashion. We’re proposing $500,000 to reinforce the program and try to make it more reliable. It’s also an opportunity to test its effectiveness.
  3. Corresponders:In addition to the above approaches, we’ll contract for two behavioral health providers that are specially trained in de-escalation and conflict resolution. They’re assigned to respond to calls with law enforcement. This is a model that’s been successful in cities like Tacoma and Lakewood.

While there are no acquisition funds as originally proposed by the county executive, we have committed $100,000 to locating and building a 16-bed diversion center. Currently, when first responders or family members need a place to take people in crisis, they end up in far more expensive, ineffective and overcrowded ERs and jails.

Finally, there is a $1 million appropriation, joining Tacoma, Gig Harbor and other cities and private contributors to support construction of the new psychiatric hospital led by MultiCare and CHI-Franciscan. In return, the hospital will provide crisis stabilization, inpatient, outpatient and partial hospitalization for Pierce County citizens.

Public Safety

Over the last two years, we’ve added 10 new fulltime sheriff’s deputies. Unfortunately, we still have inadequate coverage in rural areas like the peninsulas. I’ve sponsored an amendment with Councilmembers McCune and Roach for three additional deputies who will be deployed in the Peninsula, Mountain and Foothills detachments.

We’re also budgeting $ $1.1 million for safety improvements in the jail.

As always, if you want to discuss these or any other issues further, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 253-798-7776 or derek.young@co.pierce.wa.us.

Derek Young represents the 7th District, including the Key Peninsula, on the Pierce County Council.

The opinions expressed by columnists are not necessarily those of the KP News. We neither endorse nor oppose issues or proposals discussed and present these views for public information only.

County Council Update
County Council Update
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