Report shows King County mental health and drug programs reducing costly jail and hospital stays

King County - Contributed Art
King County
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The following is a release from King County:

Improving access to treatment services for people with mental illness and chemical dependency is proving successful in reducing costly emergency response and criminal justice services and helping people achieve healthier, safer and more stable lives in the community.

The Metropolitan King County Council today accepted the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency Sixth Annual Report, which includes information on the youth and adults who received a range of treatment services in 2013 through programs supported by Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) funds.

“Investments in our mental health and chemical dependency programs have paid dividends in the form of reduced jail time and psychiatric hospital stays,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, prime sponsor of the motion. “These programs are starting to make a dent in the overall problem, but King County still has work to do in ensuring everyone with mental health and chemical dependency challenges receive the care they need.”

In 2005, the Washington state Legislature authorized counties to implement a one-tenth of one percent sales and use tax to support new or expanded chemical dependency or mental health treatment programs and services and for the operation of new or expanded therapeutic court programs and services.

“This report shows that focusing our resources on preventive measures is an effective way to break the cycle of arrests and hospitalization,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Our combined efforts to help treat those who suffer from mental illness and chemical dependency make our communities safer and healthier.

King County became one of 19 counties in the state to create this new fund source in 2007, using the tax revenue to fund a range of programs and services to prevent and reduce unnecessary involvement with criminal justice and emergency medical systems and promote recovery for people with mental illness and chemical dependency.

“The resources provided by the MIDD tax have allowed us to build creative and humane alternatives to jail for people arrested for low level offenses who have underlying mental health and chemical dependency issues,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney and MIDD Oversight Committee Co-Chair Dan Satterberg. “Our investments in these programs will make our community safer and healthier, and have reduced our reliance on the more expensive and less effective avenue of incarceration.”


The report shows significant success during the past year. Highlights including the following:

• $53.9 million was spent during 2013 on MIDD strategies and on County programs funded through the MIDD.

• A total of 35,828 individuals (23,299 adults and 12.529 youth/children) received one or more MIDD-funded services, compared with 32,112 served in 2012.

• At least 1,059 MIDD clients reported that they had served in the U.S. military.

• 40 of 45 strategies with performance measurement data met at least 85 percent of their annual target for one or more key targets in 2013

• By increasing access to community mental health treatment, the average number of emergency visits to Harborview Medical Center was reduced 22 percent in the short term and 38 percent in the long term.

• The average number of days in jail for MIDD participants was reduced between 79 percent and 8 percent, depending on the particular MIDD program.

• A reduction in average days hospitalized for MIDD participants ranged from 66 percent to 34 percent.


Clients served by MIDD funds come from across King County, including greater Seattle (34 percent), south King County (31 percent), east King County (17 percent), north King County (8 percent), and elsewhere (10 percent).

While the original state legislation did not allow the one-tenth of one percent sales tax revenues to be used for existing programs, subsequent changes to the law by the State Legislature currently allow counties to use a portion of the funds to support existing mental health, substance abuse and therapeutic court services, making it possible to sustain programs through the recession.

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