King County Councilmember pushes proposal to fight addiction

Nov 17, 2022, 1:26 PM

King County addition...

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is pushing a proposal to use $5 million to support social and human service workers. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is pushing a proposal to use $5 million to support social and human service workers.

Appearing on KIRO Newsradio’s Gee and Ursula Show, Dunn explained what he hopes the money will be used for.

“There have been double-digit increases in drug and alcohol addiction. We’ve seen a 40% increase in depression and anxiety, mental health and behavioral health challenges, [and] substance use disorders across the board as a result of the pandemic,” Dunn explained.

“And, what’s happening is the existing boots on the ground, the crisis care providers, the health care providers, substance use counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc., they’re stretched beyond their limits.”

Dunn said that staff needs to be added. “That $5 million that you asked about is to add more folks, and also provide incentive salary incentives to both retain and hire new people so that they are not stretched.”

Ursula said she was surprised by the lack of detox centers in the county and wanted to know if there was anything in the overall county budget for that.

“This budget does add $10 million for crisis care expansion, another $4 million for the King County response teams to go out and help folks stay sober after they get out of the treatment facilities,” he said.

“I’d say across the board if we want to get people healthy, if we want to get our homeless population off the streets and into stable housing, we have got to create that safe harbor and then give them the tools to achieve, the tools to succeed, the tools to get sober, which is what this budget I think does really well.”

Dunn said there are lots of needs in the recovery community, but adding qualified counselors was at the heart of the proposal.

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“It’s kind of where the rubber meets the road. And last year, I championed a piece of legislation that does a substance use needs assessment in the community. The reports of [those] results of what we need, where our shortcomings are, will be coming back in January, and I’ll report back to you on that. But what we know is the sole sobering center in Seattle closed down, Thunderbird closed down, the Salvation Army closed down and reopened as a smaller facility. The beds aren’t there.”

Gee told Dunn that he spent a lot of time going through his Twitter.

“I’ve watched your tweets over the last few months,” Gee said. “And I want to go to a tweet you sent out on October 31. You said, ‘I realized from this experience, that in order to empower those who are battling an addiction to take that big step and get treatment, we need to give them encouragement and hope, not judgment or scorn.’ ”

Dunn said that he gets many calls from people, or friends of people, battling addiction to ask him for advice.

“And nobody knows where to start,” Dunn said. “And so we got to start with education. And we’re working on that.”

Recovery resources in King County. Department of Community and Human Services – Behavioral Health and Recovery Client Services: 206-263-8997 or 1-800-790-8049.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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