Yes on King County Proposition 1 logo
Yes on King County Proposition 1 logo

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.”

Right now, accord­ing to the Exec­u­tive’s office:

  • 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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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