An ordinance that would create a “mental health sales tax” — and pave the way for county-funded treatment providers to be unionized — is on its way for a final vote by the King County Council.
On Nov. 8, the council’s Operating Budget Committee passed a measure that would increase sales tax in King County one-tenth of 1 percent starting as early as April 1 and ending Jan. 1, 2017 — a new caveat. The money generated, now estimated at $54 million, would fund a Mental Illness and Drug Dependency Action Plan that the council passed Oct. 8.
The plan includes $11 million for treatment of those not covered by Medicaid, $6 million for a new adult crisis center, and $4 million to hire more mental health case workers.
The council can raise the tax only for treatment under a state bill passed in 2005. But the ordinance is controversial for operators of county-funded mental health services because, to get the extra funds, they must sign a “partnership agreement” allowing their workers to be organized by the Service Employees International Union (“Mental health providers resist union campaign,” RC, Oct. 17-23).