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Report presents effectiveness of mental illness and drug treatment programs


Annual report shows reduction of jail, psychiatric stays for clients using programs funded by sales tax


A program funded by the County sales tax is paying dividends, both for tax payers and the individuals who are receiving the treatment they need to stay out of the criminal justice system. The Metropolitan King County Council today accepted a report on the services supported by the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) sales tax.

“I sponsored the legislation authorizing the MIDD in 2007 because the costs of our jail being a de-facto mental institution were unacceptable and because I knew we could do better,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, chair of the Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “It is good to see that our investment is effectively helping individuals break the cycle of involvement with the criminal justice and emergency care systems.”

“MIDD funding is a key component of the ‘paradigm shift’ in criminal justice made by the County over the last decade,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “The programs supported through MIDD are an example of how early intervention is a wise investment for those who are better served by treatment over a jail cell.”

“Today’s report is good news and demonstrates just how valuable MIDD tax funded safety net is,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “These programs have saved the county money in the long run by getting certain at-risk individuals and families the help that 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. King County is one of 14 counties statewide that have adopted this revenue source. The Council adopted legislation authorizing the levy in 2007 and set the following policy goals for the programs supported by the MIDD tax:

• A reduction in the number of mentally ill and chemically dependent people using costly interventions, such as, jail, emergency rooms, and hospitals;
• A reduction in the number of people who recycle through the jail, returning repeatedly as a result of their mental illness or chemical dependency;
• A reduction of the incidence and severity of chemical dependency and mental and emotional disorders in youth and adults; and
• Diversion of mentally ill and chemically dependent youth and adults from initial or further involvement in the criminal justice system.

The tax generated approximately $41 million in 2010.

“This report demonstrates that Mental Illness and Drug Dependency tax funds are achieving the desired results of reducing the number of mentally ill and chemically dependent people in jail and diverting them to treatment,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “We must continue to maximize the effectiveness of these funds so that we can keep our communities safe, reduce criminal justice costs, and help stabilize those who need help.”

“This investment is transforming our system to a more humane model for treating those suffering from mental illness and chemical dependency,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, Vice Chair of the Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “The report shows that funding these strategies that focus on recovery is working, and it is saving significant money in our criminal justice system while also reducing recidivism and positively changing lives.”

The adopted legislation also established a policy framework for measuring the effectiveness of the public's investment in MIDD programs, requiring the King County Executive to submit oversight, implementation, and evaluation plans for the programs funded with the tax revenue. The motion adopted by the Council today accepts the third annual report on the progress of the MIDD programs, covering the period from October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010.

The report states that during the evaluation period, a sampling of MIDD clients showed a 23 percent reduction in jail bookings and a 23 percent reduction in jail days. Psychiatric hospitalizations decreased by 19 percent for the sample eligible for outcomes analysis in the reporting period. Other highlights of the MIDD report include:

• Over 27,000 unique individuals were served by the MIDD, up from 19,000 in 2009;
• Of the MIDD clients served, approximately 737 served in the U.S. Military;
• $31.8 million of the $40 million budgeted were spent implementing MIDD strategies during the 2010 calendar year;
• King County contracted or partnered with 60 community and local government agencies to provide MIDD services; and
• 37 percent of the individuals served by MIDD programs live in Seattle, 32 percent live in south King County, and 24 percent live in north and east King County.

Read the MIDD Report
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