Proposed sales tax increase could bring $10M to Pierce County mental health services

TACOMA, Wash. – An extra $10 million could help one Western Washington county tackle its mental health crisis.  That’s the message from a trio of Pierce County Council members, but they say it’ll take a tax increase to do it.

They also say a new mental health study proves the funding is necessary.

The study is based on cases per capita.  It shows Pierce County is worse off when it comes to the suicide rate and violent crime compared to the state average.  According to some county council members, it’s all linked to a lack of mental health resources.

You can see it everywhere in downtown Tacoma: homelessness.

“You’re four times more likely in Pierce County to end up on the street if you’re receiving some sort of behavioral health treatment than you are in King County or statewide,” said Pierce County Council member Derek Young.

Young says data from a new study is overwhelming.

“The number of people justice-involved that are suffering from some sort of behavioral health issue is staggering in Pierce County,” said Young.

He says many of those mentally ill end up in county jail.  Per capita, violent crime in Pierce County is higher than the state’s average.

“In the rural areas, where they lack access to ... transportation, so a lot of folks out there are getting no services whatsoever for whatever problems they’re having,” said Young.

Like a recent case in Roy involving an uncle killing his nephew and then himself.

“Grandpa was in the yard in hysterics, the neighbors heard him called 911. We got there and that`s when we found the 12-year-old deceased and it appears to be an attack from a machete,” said Pierce County Sheriff’s Office Det. Ed Troyer.

The family tells Q13 New the killer was mentally ill and they tried to get the man help.

“I work in health care and I know it’s a huge issue trying to get mental health services. There’s not enough providers,” said Tacoma resident Katie.

But there’s a debate over who should pay for it.

“You would like it (the funding) to come more, maybe from a federal location,” said Tacoma resident Levi.

The measure needs bipartisan support to pass.

“The pushback on the bill so far has been entirely from my council colleagues, not from the public,” said Young.

Young says the money would go to train law enforcement, create mental health services in the judicial system, provide housing for those with behavioral health issues along with other measures.

Click here to learn more about the study and to find out about public forums where you can voice your concerns.