Spokane County OKs $300,000 in sales tax money for mental health clinic

The Spokane County Commissioners are providing $300,000 in sales tax funding to help establish a Behavioral Health Clinic in the former Hillyard Library.

Low to moderate-income youth and adult residents of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho will be served by the facility in Northeast Spokane once the $1.85 million renovation is completed.

The county’s contribution comes from the 1/10 of 1% mental health sales tax that is dedicated to mental health, substance abuse and therapeutic court programs and services.  

Initially, the Northwest Community Center requested funding from federal stimulus dollars received by the county.

Jared Webley, spokesman for the county, said staff reviewed the request and found it met criteria to be funded by the mental health sales tax.

The Northeast Community Center and MultiCare Behavioral Health are working collaboratively on a clinic to provide more resources in Northeast Spokane.

Mary Kuney, chair of the county board, said of the funding: “Our goal in joining this partnership is to fund a project that will help reduce barriers for those seeking care. Even in the best of times we have a need and a responsibility to provide mental health services to our community. We are excited that this facility will also offer educational opportunities for students to receive the practical experience necessary for their degrees.”

The Hillyard project is expected to:

  • Improve educational outcomes for low-income children through local access to behavioral health with documented improvements in their behavioral/emotional health. Improvements will be measured by improved school attendance, social behavior, and academic engagement.
  • Provide an estimated 34,000 therapy visits per year through a combination of telehealth and in-person sessions.
  • Create an estimated 40 to 50 new living-wage positions, a majority that will be full-time with benefits.
  • Create opportunities for student practicums, both for master and bachelor-level social work positions and for psychiatric nurse practitioner students.
  • Provide internships and opportunities for clinical supervision for non-licensed or associate-level licensed clinicians who wish to become fully licensed.
  • Focus on long-term sustainability through fair-market lease of renovated space.

The local movement to increase mental health resources is multi-pronged. Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward has created a task force to bring mental health awareness to the greater Spokane community.

She said the goal of the task force is to identify needed resources and find ways to find them.

The group’s three dozen members include a roster of professionals in education, health care, youth services and government officials from the region.

That includes Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and Washington state Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane.

McMorris Rodgers introduced legislation in the House last week to provide and support lifesaving care to people in need.

The Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act reauthorizes key Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Health Resources and Services Administration programs to address the national mental health and substance use disorder crises.

“There is a mental health crisis in America, and we all need to be asking the tough questions,” McMorris Rogers said.

Some of these questions are, “Why are more people in despair and suffering from severe mental illness? Why are drug overdose deaths at record highs? And, how did school shutdowns and COVID-19 restrictions based on fear make our children feel more broken and alone?” she said.

This article was originally posted on Spokane County OKs $300,000 in sales tax money for mental health clinic

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