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Jay Inslee, security detail
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Gov. Inslee refocuses on Washington after presidential campaign

(Ted Warren / AP)

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee is no longer running for president, and has now shifted his focus back to Washington state.

KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross discussed the issues facing Washington as Inslee prepares to run again for governor. At the top of the list are issues tied to homelessness, including mental health and affordability.

“That is why we are reforming our mental health care system,” Inslee said. “It was gutted during the recession. During the recession, our capacity to provide mental healthcare for people was severely diminished and we’ve been building up that capacity ever since.”

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“We know that people do get better if they get treatment, but we want them to get treatment where they live in their own communities,” he said. “So we’re changing the model to develop more community-based systems where people live, close to their neighbors, their work, their churches, their families. We’re in the process of making major modifications in this regard.”

He notes that the Legislature provided resources for this reform last session.

“It is really important not to believe that mental health is the only challenge here,” Inslee added. “Look, over half of the people who are homeless are working. They are holding jobs, but they just can’t pay the rent. So we have to provide low-income housing for people in addition to those who don’t have mental health challenges … We have simply not provided enough housing for people and we need to build more stock. We are doing that. Since I’ve been governor, we’ve put in more than $100 million pretty much every biennium. Now we have to do it as rapidly as possible.”

Inslee further notes that he has met with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan about increasing shelter capacity.

“We also need some criminal justice reform to divert people to make sure that instead of getting lodged in our jails, they get into a mental health facility and actually have housing,” he said. “It’s a lot cheaper than housing people in jails.”

Will Inslee repay security costs?

One criticism that Inslee’s opposition has pushed is that the taxpayers funded his security while he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Unlike many other candidates, Inslee is a governor and therefore requires security wherever he goes, even if it’s outside the state on a campaign for another office.

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“We are just closing out the campaign and paying our bills. That’s about it,” Inslee said when Ross pressed him on this criticism. “There are funds and returns for the general election that could not be used. We are following the law on the executive protection unit. The State Patrol provides executive protection, by law, for all governors – Republicans and Democrats. We’re just going to follow that law.”

“It was a pleasure to wave the Washington flag around the country and I think it was helpful to raise the discussion level and the profile of the need to save our state, and our nation, from the ravages of climate change,” he said. “So I won’t be in the White House, but I think it was a productive enterprise. Now I’m really excited about the work I’m doing now for governor, which I’d like to continue.”

Listen to Dave Ross weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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