How should county prioritize $80 million?
EVERETT — The county has spent this month listening to hundreds of viewpoints on how to spend millions of federal dollars in the most impactful way.
A few subjects are rising to the top throughout: Increasing homeless sheltering, affordable housing and behavioral and mental health services. The county is weighing these together with economic and job training; increasing child care and early education; and supporting youth and students.
All six will ultimately get funding, but the feedback will help shape where more is dedicated, Kelsey Nyland, a spokesperson for the county’s Office of Recovery and Resilience.
The county has some $80 million of its $160 million in remaining American Rescue Plan Act pandemic dollars to spend.
Increasing homeless sheltering, affordable housing and behavioral and mental health services got the most votes at the County Council District 2 meeting held June 15 at the County Campus where approximately 150 people attended.
The final public meeting is Thursday, June 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center, 18821 Crown Ridge Blvd. A Facebook event listing said earlier that the meeting would be at Arlington High's Stadium.
People prioritized services by putting dot stickers on boards. The later half of the meeting was a public comment period.
Johnny Ray, who runs the 5R Recovery nonprofit in Everett, stuck his three dots all for mental health. Stabilizing people is a big need, and just one piece toward restoring people, he said.
Jim Dean, the executive director of the The Interfaith Association of Northwest Washington, called for more ways to increase shelter space, such as utilizing hotels, motels or other forms of shelter.
The night before, there were more than 100 homeless individuals in the community but just 55 open units available, Dean said. “We’ve got to fill that hole.”
The county is currently working to acquire a hotel in the Everett area to convert to homeless shelter use. It’s known it alone won’t house enough rooms for the number of homeless individuals.
Dr. Christine Bowen, the founder and chief medical officer of the Inside Health Institute of Bothell, suggested funding a mobile mental health service program to help people. “We know mental health services are crushed and overextended,” Bowen said.
Hyesoon Choi of the Mind and Behavior Center of Everett, lobbied for addressing the Fentanyl crisis better as part of public health. Hospital emergency rooms need more comprehensive toxicology screening tools, Choi lobbied.
Ben Young said to rethink how to approach spending: “Be more equitable on how you apply that funding” and ensure under-served communities don’t get lost in the whirlwind.
A woman in the audience the Tribune didn’t get the name of echoed a call for racial equity. “(The funding is) not going to solve our problem,” she said. “There is not a resource that has been supportive of black and brown communities” and these communities are not accessing services.
John McKeon, of Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue, lobbied for mental health funding for Search and Rescue itself. Searching for a greater number of people who became lost during the pandemic strained the organization and impacted its volunteers, he said.
One man put the $80 million into perspective. He called it “a one-shot deal” and emphasized money should go to infrastructure that is tangible, such as affordable housing, versus creating programs that require sustaining.
People can still give input by email at SnohomishCounty.Recovers@snoco.org
A public report compiling the findings should come out in July, Nyland said. The preferences heard will be used toward planning discussions set to begin soon after.
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