City Council wraps up 2022 budget with focus on ‘Housing, Homeless Services, Healthy & Safe Communities’

Seattle added a new Black Lives Matter outside City Hall in 2021 (Image: City of Seattle)

The Seattle City Council put a bow on the city’s annual budget session Monday with a vote approving the $7.1 billion spending plan marked by increased spending on the city’s three major crises: affordable housing, homelessness and addiction, and COVID-19 recovery. There were plenty of echoes of recent budget sessions past including a major tangle over ultimately minor changes to Seattle Police, and, yes, another year without unanimous approval as District 3 representative Kshama Sawant continued her long-running practice of voting against the final spending package.

Like last year, Sawant blasted colleagues and budget chair Teresa Mosqueda Monday for an unwillingness to make more substantial changes to the way Seattle spends its revenue. The big change, Sawant said, is how her fellow council members were spinning the numbers, saying last year’s budget “was described by the same council members as on track to defund the police by 50%, which was not true.” This time around, Sawant said she could not join the council’s efforts when “the police budget is actually growing.”

Sawant is facing a December 7th recall vote in a campaign that has focused as much on her political style as the charges brought against her.

Overall, the council’s final 2022 budget package includes $355 million for SPD, a $7 million cut from 2021 and $10 million less than Mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan called for. Continue reading

Seattle 2022 budget proposal would create team of ’24/7 Citywide Mental Health Crisis Responders’

A Seattle Crisis Center holding area (Image: CHS)

The winners and the losers emerging from this week’s moderate-leaning Seattle election results agree: Seattle policing needs to change. Like his opponent Lorena González, likely victor Bruce Harrell campaigned on a platform including calls to “reimagine” the Seattle Police Department and “revisit where a gun and badge shouldn’t go.”

A proposed amendment to the city’s 2022 budget would create a much needed resource in reducing Seattle’s dependence on gun and badge responses.

Northwest Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss, along with Councilmember Lisa Herbold and Councilmember Andrew Lewis have proposed spending $13.9 million next year to expand the city’s existing Mobile Crisis Team and to boost behavioral health programs to establish a 24/7 citywide mental health crisis first response system in the city. Continue reading

As state effort at legalization grows, Seattle asks police to deprioritize ‘magic mushrooms’

The Seattle City Council Monday approved a resolution asking Seattle Police to not enforce laws against drugs like magic mushrooms.

The resolution from Councilmember Andrew Lewis directs SPD to deprioritize arrests related to drugs including psilocybin despite federal restrictions on the mind-altering substances.

In 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin for mental health and therapeutic use. Continue reading

Why the man in the Capitol Hill ‘axe-wielding’ break-in isn’t in jail

TV news reports are highlighting a June Capitol Hill apartment break-in as the latest example of Seattle’s soft approach to crime even as mental health evaluation required by state law determined that the suspect in the incident is not competent to stand trial and a mental health evaluation apparently deemed the man fit for release from King County Jail.

“A 46-year-old man was arrested for breaking into an occupied Capitol Hill apartment armed with an axe, a hatchet and a spiked glove was released from jail without charges Monday — after state case workers concluded he is incompetent and unable to defend himself in court,” KIRO reports. “A couple living in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is frustrated that a man who allegedly entered their apartment last month will not have a criminal case against him move forward,” KING added in its story on the break-in.

SPD detailed the June 16th arrest in a “significant incident report” posted here describing the apartment’s resident arming himself with a handgun during the break-in: Continue reading

With firefighters and social workers, not cops, Seattle expands Health One to respond to homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues

(Image: City of Seattle)

After more than a year providing aid for homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues across downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill, Seattle Fire’s Health One is adding a second unit to expand its reach across new parts of the city.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and SFD Chief Harold Scoggins announced the expansion of the innovative program Tuesday.

“Seattle has pioneered community safety initiatives like Health One. As we continue to reimagine public safety, we will expand civilian public safety alternatives like Health One that sends a firefighter and social worker to a 9-1-1 call,” Durkan said. Continue reading

Seattle Counseling Service — ‘oldest LGBTQ-focused community mental health agency in the world’ — finds new home off Capitol Hill

The last moving day at SCS was 16 years ago (Image: Seattle Counseling Services)

By Lena Mercer

For 51 years, Seattle Counseling Service has been an integral part of the city’s LGBTQ+ community providing mental health and general wellness services. That has meant being part of the Capitol Hill community, too.  In the early 2000s, SCS moved into the Melrose Pine building at 1216 Pine. In the middle of a pandemic crisis, the organization has now completed a move to a larger location off the Hill that will allow it to expand its services and provide help to more people in Seattle.

“Expansion was the main factor, being able to provide, and evolve as the needs of the community expanded as well,” SCS’s Al Guerra said.

But their new home for “the oldest LGBTQ-focused community mental health agency in the world” in the Sixth & Lenora Building also represents yet another clear sign that Seattle’s LGBTQ communities are spread far beyond Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Helping lead the push for early childhood development, Perigee Fund makes home on E Pike

(Image: Perigee Fund)

There’s something new on your walk down E Pike that is not a restaurant or bar. And the work inside — with a view of all the good and the bad of the city streets of Pike/Pine — is helping advocates fight for more resources for early child development.

Executive director Becca Graves calls it upstream mental health.

“You can’t get more upstream than working prenatally,” she said.

The offices of the Perigee Fund are now resident on the street level of the auto row-era Greenus Building. The space formerly home to an upscale furniture store and interior boutique is now being used to plan a national philanthropic effort launched in 2018 to help advance work related to early childhood mental health and perinatal mental health. Continue reading

District 3 candidates face off on Seattle’s mental health issues — sort of

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and seven other council candidates from across the city met Tuesday night to discuss mental health and its connections to housing, the criminal justice system, and other issues.

Several candidates did not participate, including District 3 challenger Egan Orion, who told CHS in a text message, “I never saw an invite for it.” The forum was hosted by the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness at the 2100 Building in South Seattle. Forum organizers had told CHS both D3 candidates were expected to attend.

UPDATE 9/5/19: Not to make a mountain out of a molehill on this but it’s taken us a few days to clear up what happened with candidate Orion’s invitation to the forum. NAMI representatives want it made clear they definitely invited the candidate and that his campaign had responded:

His claim that he was “never notified” of this forum is something we must take seriously at NAMI Seattle. As a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan organization, NAMI Seattle is required to provide equal access to all candidates regarding invitations and access to any forum materials. Failure to do so can risk our nonprofit status, and we performed our due diligence to comply by calling and emailing all candidates in all districts.

Orion’s campaign manager Olga Laskin provided a statement today acknowledging that any mix-up was the campaign’s issue:

We had some confusion on the campaign side with scheduling for this event. We apologize for the confusion and did not mean to imply any bias on the part of NAMI. We appreciate NAMI’s effort in organizing this event and regret that Egan was unable to attend.

Original report: Sawant focused often on her usual call to tax big business; in this case, to fund programs related to mental health issues and building a social movement.

“If you vote for progressive council members and you become part of the movement, then we can bring a massive expansion of permanent supportive housing that can be funded by taxing big business, but for that we need political will on the council,” she said. Sawant often pointed to the dichotomy in many of the races between candidates with ideas similar to her and more moderate contestants, like Orion, who has been endorsed by the business-friendly Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of CommerceContinue reading

Cheer up: Depressed Cake Shop returns to Capitol Hill

This weekend’s forecast calls for sunny skies but the frosting will be grey as the Depressed Cake Shop returns to Capitol Hill for the sixth year of the pop-up baked goods event created to encourage conversation about mental-health issues and to raise funds for NAMI Seattle:

Depressed Cake Shop

The local effort from the National Alliance on Mental Illness is a one-day, three-hour bake sale with somberly colored cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and treats donated by local bakers. “While they look sad on the outside, all the baked goods are colored on the inside to symbolize hope,” organizers say. They also encourage you to stop by early — the treats sell out every year.

Rising anxiety has made mental health a Capitol Hill area growth industry

Newly opened businesses in the area around Capitol Hill and the Central District might give an indication of one of the growing needs of a booming population.

Mental health care providers have brought their practices to the area to meet the exceeding demand for centrally located counseling services. In 2017, CHS noticed that the City of Seattle recorded counseling offices to be the second highest number of new businesses in District 3.

“I was busy immediately and had as many referrals I could take from the get go,” said psychotherapist Lisa Hake, LMHC GMHS, who moved her practice from Bellevue to Madrona last year.

To be a licensed mental health care practitioner, providers must have a minimum education of masters degree and meet Washington’s licensing requirements. Reported lowered barriers to access and decreased stigmatization has led to overall industry growth, while the rise in business locally is attributed by many we spoke with to a widespread increase of anxiety, spurred by our current socioeconomic and political landscape. “You can’t say to people that this is a safe place anymore, the world. It really wasn’t before, but it’s obvious now that it’s no longer true,” said Jason Franklin, LMHC in Madison Valley. Franklin primarily works with intersectionality. Continue reading