Franklin County Commissioners approve tax to improve mental health, addiction services

Franklin County
YouTube: Franklin County WA Commissioners Meeting 12/07/2021 (Channel: Franklin County, WA)

UPDATE on 12/8/21: The Franklin County Commissioners approved a sales tax that will help fund mental health services and address the rising issues of mental illness, drug addiction, and homelessness in the community.

By implementing this mental health sales tax, the County hopes to raise almost $1.4 million to be dispersed to programs/services addressing chemical dependency or mental health treatment. Those funds may also be used to modify and improve existing facilities.

If you’re interested, you can watch the Dec. 7 meeting online (click here; skim to 1:08:00).

The following report has been unaltered from its original publishing date.

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash. — Community members and Franklin County officials are coming together Tuesday night to discuss implementing a mental health sales and use tax, similar to the ordinance recently passed in Benton County.

According to a news release from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, problems with mental illness, homelessness, drug addiction, and substance abuse disorders are on the rise, contributing to a crisis and multiple public safety issues.

“We must begin to take responsibility and create a viable solution to this ever-increasing dilemma,” the release said.

The solution? A one-tenth of one percent sales and use tax on residents.

“Most people aren’t even going to know that they paid it nor is it going to impact their quality of life by paying that penny but someone else’s quality of life is going to improve because of it,” Sheriff Jim Raymond said.

It’s estimated that 80% of crime in Franklin County is associated with substance abuse, the release said. 80% of those in jail struggle with addiction and 50% of the homeless adult population has a substance abuse disorder.

“The problem is we need to take care of our own people and we need to develop services to help take care of our people,” Raymond said. “Look for the people that are laying under your underpasses or laying in the middle of parking lots passed out or pushing a cart down the street with all their worldly goods in it.”

One of the community members speaking out is Angie Manterola, who has been advocating for about five years.

“As our population grows and becomes a bigger city, we are starting to resemble the problems that bigger cities have,” Manterola said. “I think mental illness has been ignored. There’s always been the push for physical illness and mental illness is just as important.”

Currently, Lourdes Health offers the only inpatient behavioral services in the region.

Manterola said it’s clear that the resources available don’t match the need of local residents.

“The community’s well aware that this isn’t a Benton county issue or a Franklin county issue, it’s a Tri-City community issue,” Manterola said.

Officials said that if there is no change, risks to public safety and those individuals will only continue to rise.

If the ordinance is signed, it will go into effect immediately but the tax would be imposed starting July 1, 2022.

“It’s not going to fix it all but it’s certainly a great way to fix one person at a time,” Raymond said.

The board meeting will be held at the HAPO/TRAC center in Pasco at 7 p.m.

RELATED: Benton County commissioners vote to pass a tax ordinance for mental health services