In Case You Missed It: Our Mental Health Assembly
This past Sunday, Sound Alliance held a Mental Health Assembly to publicly rally in support of King County’s Behavioral Health Proposition 1 for the Crisis Care Centers (CCC) levy.
Leaders of the Sound Alliance Mental Health Team, including August Drake-Ericson, Mary Jo Shannon, Celestine West, Debra Valpey, and Archie Levine were all instrumental in the work leading up to the assembly which began by identifying community need through listening sessions and research back in 2021. After conducting dozens of interviews and holding conversations with behavioral health professionals, individuals, and families, three priorities emerged from the team's research:
- We fail our community members who experience Behavioral/Mental Health issues because services are almost non-existent
- Low pay for behavioral health workers contributes to high turnover
- Families can’t get qualified help for a family member in crisis
At our All Leader's Retreat at the end of January, leaders lifted up that the Crisis Care Centers (CCC) levy emerging from the County Executive's office would address these upstream problems and right away sought to organize the assembly in support of it. August Drake-Ericson, who acted as chair of the assembly, explained that they were excited about its possibilities, saying, "When the Crisis Center Care levy was announced we immediately chose to support it. Prop 1 is King County’s first step in committing to quality to wrap around services that the crisis care centers will provide. We believe this investment is critical to turn around the pain and unmet needs of King County residents experiencing crises. The Sound Alliance is proud to support this levy and we urge our fellow King County voters to support this levy on the April 25th ballot.”
Thus, attendees from across our member institutions gathered at the Seattle Labor Temple this past Sunday to listen while community members shared their stories of mental health crises that could have been handled better if structures existed for their loved ones to receive proper care.
Jeffrey Smith, longtime community organizer and member of the Makah tribe explained why as a homeowner he would be willing to pay $10/month just to see people kept out of emergency rooms or jails. Jeffrey shared a story of his loved one having a mental health crisis and winding up in a jail cell. “I did the math”, he told the audience, “and it is pretty easy to see why investing in these centers is the right decision”.
Julianna Dauble, teacher and president of the Renton Education Association, spoke about the need for the levy in the face of our current society, which, she pointed out, is "all too often devoid of care for the most vulnerable".
Betty Hernandez of Open Arms highlighted the need for mental/behavioral health support for the Latinx community, which is disproportionately affected by barriers to services, including concerns about immigration status, insurance, and language accessibility.
Maureen Reid, a mother and local resident, shared how devastating it was to watch her son, diagnosed with schizophrenia, be treated inhumanely when he was having an episode and in need of emergency care.
Chanel Horner, a local RV resident and volunteer with ‘Stop the Sweeps’, discussed the intersection of being unhoused and accessing mental and behavioral health services.
The stories were touching, and as Celestine West pointed out, "often hearing a personal story can trigger a turning point in the listener where the issue becomes personal and humanized so that they are moved to act". And that is exactly what occurred.
Pastor Anna Rieke commissioned over 20 attendees who heartily took a stand and agreed to attend and then host Civic Academies for voter education on the CCC levy. These mini educational sessions will be held across King County in the days and weeks leading up to the April 25th special ballot.
Councilmember Girmay Zahilay and Undersherrif Jessie Anderson both attended as special guests and agreed to be in communication with Sound Alliance during the implementation of the centers to make sure community needs are being met.
And notably, our special guests included the drummer Ken Gopher and the singing group, The Raging Grannies, who all gave rousing and poignant performances for attendees.
If you missed this event, don't worry - there are still ways you can get involved in supporting better mental health for all in King County! Are you interested in hosting a Civic Academy at your institution? Interested in attending one? Register here or email us at [email protected].