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King County Council approves expansion of mental health services

The Metropolitan King County Council gave its unanimous support on Monday, April 8 for the expansion of the County’s successful Mental Health Recovery Model to include substance abuse services.

“The identification of a history of trauma as a risk factor for mental illness and substance abuse is important,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, chair of the Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “We need to continue to build resiliency – the inner capacity when supported that empowers people to successfully reach their potential and to meet life’s challenges with hope.”

“In the past, too many county residents battling mental illness received a jail cell instead of a treatment bed,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “King County has created a new paradigm in assisting the mentally ill. The establishment of a behavioral health component is a welcome addition to the program.”

King County began revamping its model for the treatment of individuals facing mental illness in 2000 to move beyond maintenance of persons with serious and persistent mental illness to the recovery of function and participation in the community to the maximum extent possible. In 2005, the Council adopted a revised Mental Health Recovery Ordinance and a recovery plan for Mental Health Services to serve as an overall guide for system change activities that would lead to a recovery-oriented system.

“Americans have heard a lot about mental health this year. Here in King County we believe that individuals can recover from mental health problems and be productive community members,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott. “We have a proven record of helping to foster recovery, and I’m thrilled we are expanding this important program.”

“Adoption of the five-year Behavioral Health Services Plan marks an important new approach for our behavioral health system,” said CouncilmemberRod Dembowski. “The new focus on recovery and resiliency within a trauma-informed framework is consistent with best practices and is a promising development for helping those struggling with mental illness and chemical dependency issues heal and live productive lives.”

Since the implementation of the Mental Health Recovery Model guidelines, there has been:

• An 89 percent increase in developmental assessments of children,
• A doubling of the hours of parent peer supports,
• An increase of nearly 20 percent in provider face to face service within seven days of hospital or jail release,
• Trainings for the mental health community,
• Increasing consumer voice in areas of treatment and policy development.

“People struggling with mental illness or addiction can get help, recover, and live productive lives, and this plan creates a treatment environment to help us reach that goal,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

The legislation adopted by the Council today will continue the current successful recovery model for mental illness and expand the framework to include substance abuse treatment. The new Recovery and Resiliency Oriented Behavioral Health Services Plan will:

• Enhance coordination and collaboration between mental health and substance abuse treatment systems in multiple areas of recovery and resiliency
• Engage stakeholders and providers in efforts to shift behavioral health to a recovery and resiliency orientation, including workforce training, policy development, and outcomes measurement.
• Include a stronger emphasis on trauma-informed care as trauma is both a predictor of mental illness and substance abuse and often a result of those disorders.

For more information on the new behavioral health recovery and resiliency plan contact Jean Robertson, King County Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services Division 206-263-8904.

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