Targets Homelessness, Substance Use Treatment, Mental Health and Criminal Justice Reforms
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia), Chair of the Select Budget Committee, issued the following statement at the conclusion of today’s Full Council meeting regarding Council Bill 119392 which passed by a vote of 8-1:
“Today we have balanced a budget that reflects our collective commitment to invest in areas that need the most attention.
“Overall, I wanted to ensure this budget reflected our desire to create a safe and healthy city for all of Seattle. While we have taken many steps to accomplish these goals, sustained efforts in 2019 are needed.
“Our goals for this budget are action-oriented and reflect a proven person-centered approach that will bring critically needed services to more people. I wanted to move beyond studies to fund projects and pilot programs that work.
“Through this budget we will expand services for our most vulnerable populations, extend treatment on demand services to address substance abuse disorders, build more housing, reform our criminal and legal system so fewer people are jailed while maintaining the safety of our neighborhoods, increase wages for human service providers, add capital improvement dollars for community projects, and advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ and transgender community.
“Over the course of our deliberations, this Council focused on improving the effectiveness of systems. Highlights include:
Addressing homelessness: To address the needs of thousands of our neighbors who are homeless, we are providing more funding for shelter, targeted outreach, and access to the vital services they need. Recognizing that the increased demand for housing and health care requires a coordinated, systemic and action-focused regional response in 2019, we invested in programs that will make an immediate difference for both service providers and people within our city. These include homeless mental health outreach; expanded treatment for individuals facing substance use disorders; homeless Navigation Team support services; expanded emergency shelter; homeless day center; homeless services for Native American and Alaskan Native women; and, LGBTQ homeless services. These are improvements yet the demand for thousands of additional units of affordable housing across our city and county remains.
Criminal and legal system reforms: We have dedicated resources to make systemic changes to our criminal, legal, and first responder systems to create better outcomes for our community. We are expanding the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program city wide; providing legal defense services for vulnerable populations including sexual assault survivors, immigrants and refugees, people facing eviction and indigent persons needing defense services; and added funds for a coordinated first responder triage pilot.
Increased health services for our most vulnerable populations and fair wages for Human Service providers: To ensure coordination and efficiencies wherever possible, we’re re-thinking how we respond to individuals who are in a behavioral, mental, or chronic illness crisis. Specifically, a newly coordinated Mobile Health Response Team in our Seattle Fire Department will enable First Responders to care for individuals suffering from chronic behavioral or mental health crises in a more person-centered and effective way. We’ve also added a behavioral health provider to the Navigation Team to help the team communicate with and offer individuals living in unsanctioned encampments with compassionate options. Additionally, recognizing that our human service providers are on the front lines of supporting our community’s most vulnerable people, we’re compensating them through an inflation increase. This is a small, yet critical step to pay human service providers more fairly for the value and dedication they bring to Seattle.
Capital improvement and neighborhood dollars: We are investing in the South Park Campus; and, a Child Care Center at City Hall. We are also funding improvements and activation in the ‘Yesler Crescent’ corridor in Pioneer Square to improve public health and safety. Examples of other neighborhood-funded projects include paving on 35th Ave SW in West Seattle, the Lake City Community Center redevelopment, and funding a public safety coordinator for the South Park neighborhood.
LGBTQ and transgender community: We’ve made budget decisions through the lens of equity and have consequently invested more in communities that have been marginalized, overlooked, and underserved. For example, we’ve allocated new resources for greatly-needed LGBTQ senior community services.
“We acknowledge that while we have made important investments to improve people’s’ lives, more work still needs to be done. Significant new investments in regional programs must be made to add thousands of housing units for all income levels across our city and the Puget Sound region. Many of these projects – plus a better coordinated human services response system – are already underway. My goal in 2019 is to work with our local and regional partners to expand and sustain these investments.
“Thank you to my Council colleagues and Mayor Durkan for your efforts to craft a balanced budget that cares for people who need our help the most. Thank you to our Council Central staff who worked long days, nights and weekends responding to our requests, and our clerks, aides, and City attorneys. A special thanks to all who commented on this budget and helped us prioritize spending to make Seattle a kinder, more welcoming place for everyone who joins us here.”
Please NOTE: The Council began a deliberative budget process in response to the proposed budget Mayor Durkan transmitted on September 24. By law, the Council is required to pass a balanced budget by December 2. A summary of Council’s individual budget actions can be found ONLINE.