Ross: Changing the climate of mental health is a bill away

Mar 2, 2023, 8:39 AM | Updated: 9:29 am
Changing the climate...
Leesa Manion, Chief of Staff to King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. (Photo courtesy of King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office)
(Photo courtesy of King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office)

Washington state wants to be a leader in climate change, but I sense that the voters are not as concerned about the rising temperature of the planet as the rising temperature in the streets.

I think reducing the carbon footprint has finally taken a back seat to reducing the chaos footprint.

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And on The Gee & Ursula Show Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell dropped a hint that he is about to do just that.

“We’ll announce here within the next five or six weeks, perhaps some changes in the law,” Harrell said. “And so make sure that the stakeholder process in the city council fully understands.”

Changes in the law – and I can only speculate – but maybe we’re talking about a clear statement that certain types of public conduct will not be tolerated.

Old-timers may remember the push for civility laws 30 years ago – by then city attorney Mark Sidran – who later ran for mayor and lost because he was considered too extreme, but I think the pendulum has swung.

Another indication change is in the air – Gee & Ursula also brought on County Prosecutor Leesa Manion, who did not hesitate to say that the way to get the mentally ill off the streets is for the state to do its job and treat them. Because it has failed.

“And when [Department of Social and Health Services] fails to provide timely mental health evaluations and competency treatment, judges face a difficult decision of whether they have to release the individuals charged with a crime, many of whom are still in crisis, or just dismiss the charges outright,” Manion said.

For example – the repeat offender who pushed a nurse down the stairs of a light rail station – and then went on to commit an assault and a murder – is still waiting for his evaluation and is being paid $250 a day.

“The state is offering zero resources and not meeting its obligation,” Manion said.

The state, of course, is having trouble hiring enough mental health workers – but Manion says there’s a way to fix that.

“We know from earlier reports that there are approximately 400 individuals who are waiting to be licensed and become licensed mental health providers in the state of Washington,” Manion said. “But there are licensing applications on hold, so clear the backlog. It would be great if the state could provide some resources to provide some services while individuals are in jail.”

It would not only be great – it’s their job. The legislative session is only half-over. There’s still time. How about it? How about voting for a climate change fix that might actually show results in our lifetime?

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Changing the climate of mental health is a bill away