Ross: Changing the mental health climate is one bill away

Ross: Changing the mental health climate is one bill away
Ross: Changing the mental health climate is one bill away

Washington State wants to be a leader on climate change, but I sense that voters are not as concerned about the rising temperature of the planet as the rising temperature of the streets.

I think reducing the carbon footprint has finally taken a backseat to reducing the chaos footprint.

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And on The Gee & Ursula Show Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell dropped a hint that he’s about to do just that.

“We’ll be announcing here in the next five or six weeks, maybe some changes to the law,” Harrell said. “And then make sure that the stakeholder process in the city council has full understanding.”

Changes in the law – and I can only speculate – but perhaps we are talking about a clear statement that certain types of public behavior will not be tolerated.

Old-timers may remember the push for civility laws 30 years ago — by then-City Attorney Mark Sidran — who later ran for mayor and lost because he was considered too extreme, but I think the pendulum has swung.

Another indication change is in the air – Gee & Ursula also brought on County Attorney Leesa Manion, who did not hesitate to say that the way to get the mentally ill off the streets is for the state to do its job and treat them. Because it has failed.

“And when [Department of Social and Health Services] fail to provide timely mental health evaluations and competency treatment, judges face a difficult decision whether to release the people charged with a crime, many of whom remain in crisis, or simply dismiss the charges, Manion said.

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For example – the repeat offender who pushed a nurse down the stairs at a light rail station – and then went on to commit an assault and murder – is still awaiting his assessment and is paid $250 per day.

“The state is providing zero resources and not meeting its obligations,” Manion said.

Of course, the state has problems hiring enough mental health workers – but Manion says there is a way to fix it.

“We know from previous reports that there are approximately 400 individuals waiting to be licensed and become licensed mental health providers in the state of Washington,” Manion said. “But there are licensing applications pending, so clear the backlog. It would be great if the state could provide some resources to provide some services while individuals are in prison.”

It wouldn’t just be great – it’s their job. The legislative session is only halfway through. There is still time. How? How about voting for a climate change that can actually show results in a lifetime?

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to podcast here.

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