MYNORTHWEST NEWS

More than 54% of voters approve King County Crisis Care Center levy

Apr 26, 2023, 7:36 AM | Updated: 9:37 am

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Executive Dow Constantine announcing the King County Crisis Care Levy (Photo: King County Council Facebook)

(Photo: King County Council Facebook)

Update 7:32 a.m.:

As of 8:03 p.m. Tuesday, 294,714 ballots had been counted in the April special election, and more than half of voters — 160,205, or 54.43% — approved the measure. Another 134,129 voters, or 45.57%, rejected it.

Following early election results on the Crisis Care Centers levy, King County Executive Dow Constantine issued the following statement.

“King County can no longer wait for state and federal investments to meet the scale of our region’s behavioral health needs, which is why I proposed the Crisis Care Centers levy with input from cities, communities, providers, first responders, law enforcement, and the workforce,” Constantine said. “I am optimistic about the early results while we wait for more votes to be counted and appreciate voters’ support for urgent action.”

Original:

King County voters are voting on the creation of a new levy that would allow the county to fund a new network of crisis care centers, with Tuesday being the last day to turn in ballots.

The proposition includes a nine-year property tax levy of 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which is expected to generate approximately $1.25 billion between 2024-2032.

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Dubbed the ‘Crisis Care Centers Levy,’ proponents say that the money would provide essential resources for five behavioral health centers, including one geared towards minors, and restore mental health residential treatment capacity to 2017 levels. The region’s behavioral health workforce would also see new recruitment and retention strategies be used with the funds.

The April special election vote is the second ballot of the year for Seattle voters after the special February election to decide on I-135, an initiative that would create a new public housing developer in Seattle.

In 2018, 355 beds providing community-based residential care for people with mental health residential needs existed in King County. Today, only 244 of these beds are available, according to the council. And in 2021, according to the county, more than 900 people experiencing behavioral health emergencies waited for two days in emergency rooms because they did not have beds for treatment available.

This has led to people relying on other ways to get treatment that is not equipped to handle acute mental health and substance abuse care, said Michelle McDaniel, the CEO of Crisis Connections. The new funding for behavioral health centers would help relieve the burden of these patients off of EMTs, the police, and hospitals.

“One result of this loss of services and trained workforce is our community turning to first responders, including 911 and police officers, when a mental health or substance use issue escalates into a crisis. This is not a solution,” McDaniels said. “So long as we misuse emergency rooms, jails, and law enforcement as mental health providers, we fail people in the crisis, and we fail people in our communities.”

Sponsors said the levy would cost the owner of a median-valued home in Seattle about $121 or about $10 a month.

“It’s a system that is not set up to respond with all of the people and support that we need to meet the crisis. So when we’re thinking about the cost of this, this $100 million a year, we’re thinking about the cost, we’re spending $100 million a year right now, and things are getting worse,” Councilmember Sarah Perry said in support of the ballot measure. “So this is a much more efficient and effective use of our public dollars. So we don’t just keep spinning this wheel and going back home.”

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The walk-in centers would provide immediate counseling and other help for people suffering from mental or behavioral health problems.

King County Executive Dow Constantine applauded the council’s decision, saying that the money would be critical to the county’s ability to address problems facing the region, including homelessness, crime, and drug use.

“The behavioral health crisis is intersectional — it shows up in our streets, it shows up in our jails, and it shows up in our communities. By improving and investing in our behavioral health crisis system, we can also create solutions for other important arenas, from public safety to public health to homelessness,” Constantine said. “The Crisis Care Centers levy is how we help people get from crisis to recovery and how we ensure they have the necessary support to be able to start reclaiming their lives.”

The proposed ballot measure was passed out by the King County Regional Policy Committee and the King County Council by a unanimous vote. 

You can find the nearest ballot drop boxes here.

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More than 54% of voters approve King County Crisis Care Center levy