Kitsap County divvies up $4.1 million for mental health, drug treatment

A designated sales tax approved in Kitsap County in 2013 is paying out about $4.1 million to mental health and substance abuse organizations next year, it was announced Monday.

Nineteen programs were selected to receive grants ranging in value from $21,500 for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office crisis intervention program, to $580,301 for behavioral health counseling at the Olympic Educational Service District from a widely implemented sales tax designated for mental health and addiction services.

The sheriff’s department is also receiving $210,720 to fund a new “Reentry Officer” position to supervise recovery programs post-release.

The “1/10th of one percent behavioral health tax,” approved by the Board of Commissioners on Sept. 23, 2013, imposed a sales tax of 0.1 percent on purchases with revenue earmarked for “mental health, chemical dependency and therapeutic court services.”

More than a dozen other counties across the state imposed a similar tax following a 2005 law in the state Legislature authorizing municipalities to do so.

In total, $4,114,937 will be awarded next year in Kitsap County, the most of any year since the program began. The average award per-program will be approximately $216,600.

Twenty-five proposals were submitted for funding, evaluated by a citizens’ advisory committee with final approval granted to the board. Among the criteria used to evaluate proposals were whether the program would “improve the health status and well-being of Kitsap County residents,” “divert chemically dependent and mentally ill youth and adults from initial or further criminal justice system involvement,” and/or “reduce the number of people in Kitsap County who use costly interventions including hospitals, emergency rooms, and crisis services,” according to a presentation provided by Doug Washburn, director of the county’s department of human services.

Programs to receive over $300,000 include Kitsap Connect, a county public health department program that assists the homeless and mentally ill with the goal of reducing “persistent suffering” among those populations and “the overuse of costly care systems;” the New Start program, an addiction treatment program located in the Kitsap County Jail; and the Adult Drug Court, a Kitsap County Superior Court initiative that offers drug treatment “as an alternative to criminal prosecution” for non-violent drug offenders.

“Too often, the de facto systems of care [for mental health and chemical dependency issues] are local jails, courts and hospital rooms,” Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said. “This funding develops a coordinated approach similar to the continuum of care model for public health.”

According to the Kitsap Public Health Department’s most recently available data, drug-related deaths and drug-related hospitalizations are increasing in Kitsap County.

The department’s “core public health indicators” show 391 drug-related hospitalizations per 100,000 people in 2015, up more than 56 percent over 10 years. There were 15.1 drug-related deaths per 100,000 residents, an increase of more than 30 percent over that span.

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