Alternatives to policing
Councilmembers proposed a round-the-clock behavioral health response capability during late October budget meetings.
The approach would use $13.9 million to expand the behavioral health crisis response system to create options other than police intervention in certain situations.
Roughly $3.9 million would double the size of the Mobile Crisis Team so that it could work continuously to respond to crisis events around the city. The program is run by DESC, one of the largest service providers in Seattle and the region.
Another $1.5 million would go to DESC’s Behavioral Health Response Team to follow up with individuals immediately after they’ve been in crisis. The remaining $8.5 million would go toward operating costs of a crisis stabilization center. According to the press release, this would “nearly double the capacity for these types of services in King County.”
Councilmember Dan Strauss sponsored the amendment to the budget.
“We don’t need to create new programs, we need to expand the proven programs we already have to meet the full scale of the crisis on our streets,” Strauss said in a press release. “An effective public safety system sends the appropriate first responder to respond to emergencies right away.”
The change is part of a larger discussion about when armed and uniformed police are needed at certain emergency calls. The city has already decided to move dispatch and parking enforcement out of the police department.
Good news for once
Listen. The past couple calendar years have been less than optimal. But there is actual good news on the public health front.
Public Health – Seattle & King County announced that there has been a reduction in the number of people experiencing homelessness who have contracted hepatitis A, a preventable liver infection for which there is a vaccine.
On Oct. 29, the Washington State Department of Health notified the state that the statewide hepatitis A outbreak seemed to be over. The disease is transmitted through contaminated food or water or close contact with someone who is infected.
According to the department, 199 King County residents reported being infected with hepatitis A between January 2019 and September 2021. Most of those people were experiencing homelessness.
This was a big leap. Between 2010 and 2019, the department fielded between five and 16 cases of hepatitis A.
Public Health – Seattle & King County says that most of the recent infections have involved person-to-person transmission, especially among people experiencing homelessness and people who use drugs. Hygiene facilities that allow people to use soap and warm water for handwashing can help prevent such outbreaks.
Ashley Archibald is a freelance journalist and former Real Change staff reporter. Her work can be found in the South Seattle Emerald, KNKX and the Urbanist.
Read more of the Nov. 3-9, 2021 issue.