Many times when we start a new year we think about new things to do – clean a closet, start to exercise, lose weight. At the county we often continue working or capitalizing on what we have previously started. An area that I am going to continue working on should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been following these articles.
I have been appointed to chair the Select Committee on Human Services. Behavioral health is on the top of our list. Council will soon have a new legislative analyst for human services who will conduct research, analysis and public policy development in the areas of behavioral health (mental health and chemical dependency), affordable housing and homelessness, senior services, and services for those with disabilities. The information the analyst will be able to provide will be invaluable to the Select Committee on Human Services. The county is a “middle adopter,” which means that we are in the planning and development stage of Integration 2020. Integration 2020 is a state mandate requiring all counties to integrate their Medicaid services for mental health, chemical dependency and medical health, with the intent to streamline services and payment of services to Washington residents. This must be done by 2020. If counties don’t do this early planning, then the state will dictate to them what needs to be done and how to do it. As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details,” and there are a lot of details that we will be working on in collaboration with stakeholders from all of these areas.
Affordable housing and homelessness is a growing problem. The problem goes across all jurisdictions and I believe that the tactic should also be advanced regionally. I will be working collaboratively with a number of elected officials from Tacoma, Lakewood and Puyallup and representatives from homeless and affordable housing providers to develop strategies that can be used regionally to provide services and shelter for this population.
We have an opioid crisis in our community. There is an opioid task force planning a summit next month for representatives from multiple agencies to review an action plan that will work on strategies, potential actions, gaps and resource requirements to confront this epidemic.
Blighted properties have been an ongoing problem for many years. Council passed a Chronic Nuisance Ordinance that addresses the many concerns we hear from the public i.e. junk cars, derelict properties, and sometimes illegal activity. This year I am hoping to develop a cross-discipline approach to deliver responses to these communities in the hope that calls for service do not fall between the cracks.
These are some of the highlights of what we will be working on this year. Much of what we do is the direct result of requests from you, the public. I am thankful for your input and will continue to be responsive to your needs and the needs of all of Pierce County.
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Connie Ladenburg is a member of the Pierce County Council.