On Tuesday, the King County Council unanimously passed Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn’s motion that directs the King County Executive to address substance use and mental health supports more specifically in the Best Starts for Kids (BSK) levy implementation plan. This comes after a unanimous passage out of the Regional Policy Committee (RPC), which is made up of elected officials from the King County Council, the Seattle City Council, and Sound Cities Association, last month.
“Investing in the mental health of our children will help them have the best shot at a happy and healthy future,” said Dunn. “I’m proud that the Council is taking action to prevent youth substance use disorder and support their mental health needs, especially as addiction, overdoses, and other behavioral health problems have alarmingly increased during the pandemic.”
The motion would act as companion legislation to the BSK levy ordinance approved by the Council. Co-sponsored by Councilmembers Rod Dembowski, Kathy Lambert and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the legislation would require that the BSK implementation plan identify strategies related to prevention, outreach, and early intervention to address mental health and substance use disorders in children and youth ages five or older, suggesting a targeted awareness campaign about the risks of substance use.
“The impacts of isolation, economic devastation, housing instability and other stresses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary response to it, have led to a very serious behavioral health crisis,” said Dembowski. “Our youth have been particularly impacted, in large part because in-person schooling and recreational activities were suspended for more than a year. We must seize this moment to marshal the resources of the Best Starts for Kids Levy and help our young people heal. With this legislation, I hope that our Best Starts for Kids Implementation Plan will make major strides in addressing this very serious challenge.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions and increased substance use associated with COVID-19. According to the linked study, young adults age 18-24 experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, more substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation compared to other age groups.
The BSK levy implementation plan impacted by this legislation will be transmitted by the Executive to Council by July 31st, where it will need approval by RPC and then full Council. King County voters will vote on the approved BSK levy on the August 2021 Primary Election ballot.