Monday, January 30, 2023

Seattle City Council Considers Nearly $ 50 Million Mental Health Budget Amendments Including New Crisis Center

Seattle City Council is considering budget amendments of $ 49.9 million to address mental and behavioral health needs, including the creation of a new voluntary crisis center.

With housing and public safety dominating budget discussions for 2022, councilors Lisa Herbold and Dan Strauss have made a number of amendments to Mayor Jenny Durcan’s proposed $ 7.1 billion budget to address both issues by intervening in a mental health crisis.

Specifically, they proposed a couple of amendments to create and cover operating costs in the new short-term crisis center in Seattle.

The Strauss Amendment, co-sponsored by Herbold and Council Member Andrew Lewis, provides an additional $ 13.9 million from the general fund to the Department of Human Services to support mental and behavioral health services.

The proposed investment will focus on crisis response, with the bulk of the money going to cover the operations of a second Crisis Stabilization Center, similar to the existing Crisis Solutions Center operated by the City Center Emergency Center, or DESC.

“If someone is in a crisis, they are greeted by a crisis response team, work stabilized for 72 hours, and then they have the option to stay for up to 14 days,” Strauss said at a budget committee meeting last week. center is his “top priority for the year.”

Strauss described the center as a short-term emergency solution for mental health crises rather than permanent housing. However, he also said it would play a role in finding permanent solutions to public safety and housing problems in the city.

“Without an emergency sleeping place, we will not be able to intervene at the moment, and without permanent shelter, we will not be able to maintain their stability,” he added.

Operations at this center will cost $ 8.5 million. An additional $ 3.9 million will go to expand the mobile mental health crisis services operated by DESC, and the remaining $ 1.5 million will go to mental health response teams, including those currently operated by DESC.

According to the proposed amendment, $ 8.5 million will cover one year of operation of the second voluntary crisis stabilization center and approximately double the capacity of these services in King County.

The DESC’s ongoing operations are funded by King County and include a 16-bed crisis unit where a person in a mental health crisis can stabilize for up to 72 hours, subject to the amendment, and 30 additional “downgraded” beds. that people can stay there for up to 14 days.

While the amendment does not apply to the purchase or renovation of the second facility, Herbold has made a separate amendment that will provide the Department of Human Services with a one-time, $ 32 million surcharge earmarked for the installation of the new facility.

“It will be like a Crisis Solutions Center with 50-65 beds and staffed with medical and non-medical behavioral health specialists,” Herbold said. “In addition to simply increasing the number of available beds, he will also accept referrals from more partners than is currently allowed.”

“Currently, the center for resolving crisis situations takes referrals, first of all, from law enforcement agencies. The new institution could take referrals from community partners such as Crisis Connections to help people with acute behavioral health meet their needs without requiring law enforcement involvement, ”she added.

The Institutional Amendment allows the department to “purchase and renovate a hotel or other facility in accordance with the state’s hospital licensing standards so that they can operate as a voluntary crisis stabilization agency, similar to the King County Crisis Center.”

In addition to the Crisis Center Amendment, Herbold has made two small amendments that include an additional $ 4 million investment in mental health and behavioral resources.

Herbold said that in addition to helping those in crisis, these resources will help reform the criminal justice system and shorten emergency response times by excluding the police from health checks and similar calls.

“A recent analysis of emergency calls in Seattle by the National Institute of Criminal Justice led the executive to agree that” up to 12% of calls for service can be answered without SPD involvement in the near future. ” That’s 40,000 calls a year that don’t require a police response, ”Herbold said, citing the analysis. “The proposed budget falls far short of the requirements as it only proposes to respond to 7,000 of them with Triage One. This leaves more than 30,000 calls that, by default, will not be answered by the police without any massive funding.

“Investments like the Mobile Crisis Team are exactly what we need to respond safely.”

Other relevant Herbold amendments highlight:

  • $ 1 million to increase funding for mental and behavioral health services in schools, and to increase the city’s investment in mental health services through county contracts.
  • $ 3 million to expand mobile advocacy services and financial assistance to survivors of gender-based violence, a research-based approach that contributes to the long-term stability, safety and well-being of survivors and their children.

Board members are expected to make the final budget decision in the week of November 22nd.

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