Issue: Right now, the King County Council has the opportunity to take a significant step toward ending homelessness. Council members will have the option to raise the sales tax by one-tenth of one percent to provide a new source of funding in the 2008 budget. This small tax will raise $50 million a year for urgently needed mental health and substance abuse programs, and will cost the average household just $25 yearly.
Mental health and substance abuse problems affect people from all backgrounds; they do not discriminate by race,
ethnicity, gender, or class. But, unless one can afford to pay for private care, treatment is very hard to find. This tax would provide money for desperately needed services that will get more people off the street and into a bed.
Background: Most people who are chronically homeless, including veterans, are either dealing with mental health issues, substance abuse, or both. This tax increase would provide facilities that offer a more humane, and even cost-effective, solution to this growing social dilemma. These funds could provide programs to facilitate treatment, recovery, and permanent housing. Long-term recovery eliminates the high cost (financially and socially) of emergency shelter services and incarceration.
Mental health and substance abuse treatment works, and saves money further down the road:
• According to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, treatment reduces short-term incidence of mental illness by 22 percent, alcohol addiction by 15 percent, and drug dependency by 22 percent.
• Nationally, 24 percent of youth in jails have mental illness, while 60 to 80 percent have chemical dependencies.
• For every dollar spent on treatment of mental illness and substance abuse, approximately two tax dollars are saved in jails, hospitals, and other emergency costs.
In the midst of Seattle’s transition into a major metropolitan city we cannot allow a gap in our social services. The services that could be funded by the tax would be a huge asset to our community. King County Executive Ron Sims already supports the tax and has included it in the 2008 budget proposal. The final vote is Nov. 7.
Action: Email, call or write your county councilmember and ask him or her to support the Mental Health Substance Abuse Sales Tax. If you are unsure which councilmember represents you, go to www.metrokc.gov/council to find out.
District 1: Bob Ferguson (206)296-1001 firstname.lastname@example.org
District 2: Larry Gossett (206)296-1002, email@example.com
District 3: Kathy Lambert (206)296-1003 firstname.lastname@example.org
District 4: Larry Phillips (206)296-1004 email@example.com
District 5: Julia Patterson (206)296-1005 firstname.lastname@example.org
District 6: Jane Hague (206)296-1006 email@example.com
District 7: Pete von Reichbauer (206)296-1007 firstname.lastname@example.org
District 8: Dow Constantine (206)296-1008 email@example.com