Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle & South Park) is looking forward to the Council vote tomorrow on the midyear budget bill. Among other things, the bill moves $1.6 million to the Community Safety and Communications Center and grants position authority for the city’s new dual dispatch pilot program, as well as making $1 million available to expand mobile opioid treatment – critical public health and safety investments which Councilmember Herbold has championed.
New emergency responder positions
The new dual dispatch program would send mental health professionals as the first responders to 911 calls involving people in behavioral health crisis. Those mental health professionals would have police backup available to them, but SPD officers would only approach if needed.
The funding, in Mayor Harrell’s proposed midyear supplemental budget, moves the funds held for this purpose for the last two budget cycles, to pay for the facilities costs, vehicles, and the long awaited new position authority for the Community Safety and Communications Center to hire new staff that will be used to set up three teams including mental health professionals. The majority of these funds have been held in the “Finance General” account of the budget since allocated by the Council in the fall of 2021.
This budget add allows the CSCC to begin the process of recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training the new responders to be deployed later this year. The plan, shared by the CSCC at the June 27 Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting, is to activate the dual dispatch pilot this fall.
“With this action, we can finally take the next step toward our community’s calls for policing alternatives. We know we cannot continue to ask police to do it all. This program will help focus our approach to public safety and free up officers to more quickly respond to the types of emergencies that only they can,” said Councilmember Herbold, Chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee.
Opioid treatment funding
To support the urgent funding for one element of Mayor Harrell’s incoming Executive Order, specifically: “access to mobile opioid medication delivery,” Councilmember Herbold also championed $1 million in new funding to expand opioid addiction treatment in Pioneer Square. Evergreen Treatment Services is on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic, providing life-saving medical treatment and counseling for people struggling with addiction throughout the region. Their innovative program, Treatment in Motion (TIM), brings comprehensive mobile medication and counseling to people struggling with opioid addiction downtown, with capacity to serve up to 120 people daily.
The new funding would allow Evergreen Treatment Services to add an additional mobile medication vehicle and three more locations, including one in Pioneer Square, with the capacity to serve up to 360 people each day. The organization is also seeking purchase of a transport van to circulate between “hot spots” and pick up patients to deliver them to the mobile unit to receive care, further lowering barriers to treatment. Without this funding, they would likely seek funding from a different jurisdiction, with a result of fewer service days per week within the city, and no Pioneer Square service site.
“If you have someone you care about and love, who is an addict, what you care about most, and first, is that they don’t die in the throes of their addiction. By investing in this mobile treatment approach, we are expanding access and breaking down barriers to proven treatment for our most vulnerable residents. We cannot end the fentanyl epidemic and drug overdose crisis without treatment – and we need more treatment, not less,” said Councilmember Herbold.
“Treatment in Motion ensures that vital and lifesaving services will be available to those most in need in our community. These funds protect a community-based outreach program that brings medication for opioid use disorder along with case management, counseling, and medical services directly to the most marginalized in our community,” said Seth Soth, Director of Health Integration & Innovation at Evergreen Treatment Services.
These proposals, along with the entire midyear supplemental budget, go to a vote of the full Council tomorrow. Attend in person or watch live via SeattleChannel.org.