Behavioral Health Tax
In December 2021, the Pierce County Council passed Ordinance No. 2020-138s authorizing the collection of a 1/10th of one percent sales tax to fund behavioral health and therapeutic court programs within Pierce County. This tax, allowed under RCW 82.14.460, will provide funds for mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Treatment dollars will be targeted toward services not covered by Medicaid, private insurance, or other local or federal grants.
The county began collecting the tax on July 1, 2021. Ordinance 2020-138s requires Human Services to work with the Pierce County Behavioral Health Advisory Board to develop a Behavioral Health Improvement Plan. This plan will help identify gaps and needs in the community in order to set funding priorities.
The Behavioral Health Improvement Plan will incorporate the Council’s policy goals to:
- Reduce the number, time, and rate of avoidable behavioral health crises;
- Ensure broad access to treatment for Pierce County residents in both urban and rural communities, regardless of the type of health insurance coverage or lack thereof;
- Prioritize services to especially vulnerable populations, particularly youth and veterans;
- Divert adults and youth with behavioral health needs from costly interventions (e.g., emergency rooms, hospitals, jails, police, EMS, etc.) to more appropriate services;
- Reduce rates of substance use morbidity and mortality;
- Reduce rates of suicide and other self-harm;
- Link, leverage, and align behavioral health programs and services available in the community; and
- Provide trauma-informed, culturally competent services.
The Behavioral Health Improvement Plan must include the following elements:
- A narrative section describing the existing state of, and future vision for, the behavioral health system in Pierce County.
- A listing of goals and policies intended to inform and guide behavioral health system development and improvement.
- An inventory of known behavioral health programs and services within Pierce County.
- A forecast of behavioral health needs over the next six years, noting any deficiencies between existing programs and services and future needs.
- A six-year plan with priorities based on cost-effective expenditure of County-directed behavioral health resources, including any resources raised by the Behavioral Health and Therapeutic Courts Tax, with a focus on early intervention, crisis services, and services for justice-involved populations.
- Relevant performance and outcome measures for identified objects of expenditure.
- A narrative section describing any data access challenges or limitations, including the organizations and entities that could help address those challenges or limitations.
The Pierce County Council authorized funding during the start-up phase of the Behavioral Health Tax program. Upon completion of the Behavioral Health Improvement Plan, the Behavioral Health Advisory Board will make further recommendations for funding.
Currently funded programs (July through December 2021) include:
- $350,000 Crisis Response/Embedded social workers with Pierce County Sheriff
- $180,000 Crisis Co-Responder/Pierce County Sheriff
- $500,000 Wraparound with Intensive Services (WISe) program for youth
- $1,000,000 School-based behavioral health navigator and treatment
- $275,000 Cohen Veterans Clinic
- $148,000 Assisted Outpatient Treatment
Most of these funds have been awarded or are in the process of being awarded.
Formation of the Pierce County Behavioral Health Advisory Board.
- Request for qualifications/competitive bidding for council-approved programs
- Hire program staff
- Negotiate contracts for approved programs
- Complete gaps assessment, develop program metrics, oversight/monitoring process, reporting requirements, and other program elements. Integrate into draft Behavioral Health Improvement Plan.
Next Steps (Timelines contingent upon approval process)
- Completion of the Behavioral Health Improvement Plan process, including advisory board, executive, and council approval by December 2021.
- Finalize 2022 funding priorities
- Release requests for proposals for approved funding priorities