Tomorrow — Tuesday, April 25th, 2023, is Special Election Day in Washington State. Many localities have sent voters levy or bond measures that would raise revenue to fund essential needs, including King County, where a measure officially known as Proposition 1 and better known as the crisis care centers levy (to distinguish it from other propositions in bygone elections!) is on the ballot.
The purpose of the levy is straightforward: to create a countywide network of [behavioral and mental health] crisis care centers, the stabilization of residential treatment, and a well-supported work force to ensure timely, lifesaving care.
“The Crisis Care Centers levy proposes to invest in urgent care needs to transform an aging system and restore a path to recovery,” explains a presentation prepared by Executive Dow Constantine’s office. “The proposal responds to continued closures, reduced capacity, and significant gaps of behavioral health resources.”
- King County is without a walk-in behavioral health urgent care facility.
- Only one 46-bed behavioral health crisis facility is in operation in Seattle for the entire county and requires a referral.
- Residential treatment beds are in decline. In 2018, 355 beds for mental health residential care existed. Today, only 244.
- The behavioral health work force is strained under the magnitude of the need, all while being underpaid, overworked, and stretched too thin.
- Significant additional investment is needed across the spectrum of behavioral health services, not just to respond to crises but for prevention, early intervention and community-based outpatient supports that keep challenges from escalating into crises.
King County Proposition 1 will not, by itself, solve our mental and behavioral health crisis. But it’s an important piece of the puzzle. It can’t be the extent of our response, but it’s a really important and necessary step to take.
Opposition to the levy has so far come mainly from the right wing, anti-tax crowd, vocally represented by Tim Eyman in media coverage and in the voter’s pamphlet.
However, more well-intentioned people have also raised concerns, with former Justice Phil Talmadge and Daniel Malone, the executive director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, telling The Seattle Times’ Alex Fryer that they worry the levy could be too much and yet not enough at the same time.
“This crisis investment is desperately needed, and it’ll be a huge mistake if that’s all we do,” Malone told Fryer.
“If you make this one gold-plated thing, then it gets real easy to just let everything fall down to that, which is terrible. Nobody wants a situation like that.”
Neither do we. And while we dislike the continued reliance on sales taxes and property taxes to fund essential unmet needs at the local level that the Legislature isn’t budgeting enough resources to support at the state level, a no vote on this levy is a vote for the status quo — a system in which people in crisis continue to be sent to emergency rooms and not treated as effectively as they could be.
If your ballot is still sitting on your desk or kitchen table because you’re undecided, our team hopes you’ll take a few minutes to read what award-winning musician Macklemore had to say recently about the crisis care centers levy during an appearance at a luncheon for Councilmember Girmay Zahilay.
As you read the remarks, notice how Macklemore centers people in his framing of the issue, rather than trying to score political points or spread fear and cynicism.
MACKLEMORE: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
How you guys doing? I said, how you guys doing?
Awesome, awesome, awesome. Let me get more comfortable.
[REMOVES TIE]: It’s a clip on, y’all. It’s a clip on, and I highly recommend these. It’s just easy. It’s just convenient.
I’m honored to be here. I’m completely honored, and [Girmay], I haven’t even known you for that long. At all. In fact, we’ve been in the same space maybe three times. But I heard you speak at Washington Hall a couple months ago, and I was… I was moved. I was moved, and I think that anyone that was in that room probably felt the exact same way that I did: Moved.
I felt heart. I felt heart. Not only, not only his, but I felt my own. And that’s the highest honor – to be light that helps others feel their heart. You are that person. You really, really are.
As he told deeply emotional, personal stories, he had to pause to collect himself. I was moved to tears. I was reminded of humanity, the true core of what connects us as spiritual beings having a human experience. I was reminded that the greatest gift that we can give ourselves is to serve others. What Girmay has done in the last four years is not only inspiring, it is almost hard to believe: the ripple effect of him showing up and fighting for those that need it the most.
The allocation of real dollars in Skyway going to places that the community — community — mutually decides upon that ripple will be, will be felt, well past our lifetime.
You never know what somebody is going through until you ask them, until you sit down, until you have a conversation and let them know that you see them, that you are here to help.
That you’re not going anywhere, that you’re in their corner.
Not when it’s convenient, not when it’s for personal gain or public perception, but when they need it, whenever that might be, that they will not be forgotten. Girmay lives this act of service in a city that is doing the opposite.
We have pushed people out. We have gentrified, we have tore down communities for condos. We have forgotten.
We have forgotten what it means to be human. To care for those that are still suffering, to help those that need it the most to prioritize the most marginalized and make sure that families have the bare necessities to just live and be safe.
We are right in the middle of an epidemic that has been happening far before we had the word to describe it as such: the disease of addiction and the mental health crisis that our country, our city, our county is fighting right now is killing us.
We have 2.2 million people living in King County and we have zero walk-in urgent care behavioral health clinics in one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
The land of Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft. Zero in King County. We have reached a point where I imagine that every person in this room knows someone — family member, colleague, friend — that is suffering from the disease of addiction or has suffered. And I would imagine that probably half the people in this room have known someone that has died from the disease of addiction.
Personally, I have lost count. When I was twenty-five years old, I got addicted to prescription pain medication. And I will never forget the day that my dad pulled me aside. He looked me in my eye and said, Ben, are you happy? And I barely even recognized the word, but it was in that moment that I surrendered. I had just enough willingness to say, yes, I will go to rehab.
And if it wasn’t for those twenty-eight days… that treatment center, those counselors, I would not be here, on this stage, or period. It was the first time that I learned that I had a disease. I had no idea I had a disease. It was there that I met other people with the same one. And for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like I had a moral failing.
I didn’t have to be a secret anymore. I felt a part of community. I left treatment with a diagnosis. I never had one. I just thought I was broken. I didn’t know I had an allergy, and I found that I had one. I left there with a plan, a brand new set of tools that led me to a life I could never have dreamed up.
Most aren’t so fortunate. When I was twenty-one, I was going to Evergreen State College and they had a program called Gateways that I became a part of. With Gateways, I worked with incarcerated youth at our state’s, maximum security, juvenile detention facility, Green Hill. I would bring in Beats recording equipment and would help facilitate writing workshops and record.
It was there that I met an eighteen-year old named Jamil Webb. We called him Twin. He had been in and out of the system since he was a boy. He was from around 27th and Union in the CD [Central District] and was one of the countless youth that had been locked up and institutionalized by selling the same thing that Uncle Ike’s is selling right now.
I was immediately drawn to Twin. He was charismatic, he was smart, he was handsome. He was personal. He was charming. He had that Janessa quo about him. He was also a really talented rapper, and I saw massive potential in Twin. We became close friends for the next 18 years. Twin and I would go back and forth, keeping in touch.
He’d come over record at my spot. I wouldn’t hear from him for a year, maybe two. Find out he was locked up. Finally, at the age of thirty, he got sentenced to seven years, fed time, and got out last year. I was so happy to hear that he was out.
When he was locked up, he developed a passion for history and politics and wanted to start a podcast. He had this undertone in his voice. That I recognize with other friends that had done long bids in prison, and it was that tone of fear.
The fear… and it wasn’t the fear of going back to prison, it was the fear of not knowing what to do with his life. A fear of not having resources or a plan, a fear of getting caught back up in the same things that led him there in the first place.
So you don’t get that toolset incarcerated. It’s not what incarceration is for. It’s not to give you new tools.
I met up with him.
I got him some recording equipment for his podcast, lent him a car, offered to show up in any way that I could. He didn’t want any handouts. He just needed some help. I got a call a couple months later that the car was impounded. They discovered drugs in the car and the girl that he was dating was addicted to fentanyl.
Soon after that arrest, I learned that Twin had recently started using meth. They were living in an abandoned motel on Aurora and things had gotten really bad, really fast. He got arrested and the judge ordered Twin to go back to rehab, and I was so relieved to know that at the very least he would be safe and unable to use.
I was so excited at the possibility that maybe, just maybe, he would get this thing that I got when I was in treatment, which is his life back. Some tools, a diagnosis. Some surrender powerlessness around any mind-altering substance community, the therapeutic value of one addict helping another. I talked to him on his third night there in treatment, and he sounded like his old self. He was excited. He had joy, gratitude, gratitude. There was the glimpse of the old Twin, even after only being clean for seventy-two hours.
He texted me on the night of my album release on March 2nd and told me that he left rehab early, that his, his girl wasn’t doing good, that he needed to help her, and that he had relapsed when he was out. He wasn’t in a good spot. And, a couple days later, he texted me again and was like, dude, I’m, I’m not, I’m not good right now.
And I’m like, okay. I, I’m, I’m back, we’ll figure it out, get back into treatment and um, I’ll drive you, I’ll drive you out there. He said, I can’t go back to treatment right now. You have to wait thirty days before you can go back. If you leave early. And I had to think of a plan. I’m doing the Easy Street signing, um, with my family Sunday.
I’m like, okay, I’ll get to this Monday. I’ll figure this out Monday. What we’re gonna do, maybe I’ll get ’em to the rehab that I went to. We’ll figure it out. And, um, as I was, uh, getting my kids ready for school on Monday morning, I got a call from his brother and I picked it up and he told me that at, uh, 4:30 in the morning, a couple hours before, uh, Twin had been killed on Third and Bell. Shot three times and died on his – on his way to Harborview.
And the devastation that I felt then has not left the last three something weeks.
I’m tired. I’m really tired of getting phone calls from family members, from Kevin’s sister, from Jayden’s mom, from Twin’s brother to countless other phone calls saying that the person that they love was taken out by this disease. And the reason why I’m up here is to support you, but it’s bigger than you. And you know that.
And that’s why… because I can’t help but think that, what if Twin, when he hit me and he couldn’t go back to rehab thirty days, what if he had access to one of these urgent care crisis clinics?
Would he still be alive, when I didn’t know where to send him? When I was like, you know what I, I don’t know what to do right now. Let me think about… I shouldn’t have to think about it.
I’m in active recovery. I shouldn’t have to think about where to tell someone to get help. I shouldn’t have to figure it out.
I should – I should be able to say, you go here. This is the address. This is where you go. There’s five of them. There’s five of them.
Your vision is beautiful. It is beautiful. And I’m so happy that there’s eight, nine hundred people in here that see the beauty and the potential of what Girmay wants to do with our city, who he wants to help, who he’s advocating for, and his character.
I’m inspired, I’m honored, and I’m excited for our city’s future. And… and sometimes when I, when I drive around this place, I don’t feel excited. I feel like the neighborhoods I fell in love with that made me who I am have changed. I feel like the people that live in this city have changed. My closest friends have been pushed out of it.
You make people feel a part of, you see people, not when it’s convenient, but all the time.
And I appreciate you and all you guys. Thank you!
If you are a King County voter, please vote the NPI team in voting yes on King County Proposition 1 by 8 PM tomorrow, Tuesday, April 25th, 2023.