Olya Adamovich pixabay.com
During a Pierce County council meeting held on December 22, 2020, members approved a 1/10% sales tax increase meant to fund behavioral health services in the near future. As stated on their official site, by a super-majority vote of 5-1, the small tax increase is estimated to generate $12 million a year and aims to reinvest more Medicaid dollars into Pierce County.
Josephine Peterson from the News Tribune mentions how this tax increase has taken three attempts within the last four years to be passed. In March of 2020, Council Vice Chair Dave Morell was the deciding vote which delayed the passing of said increase. “He told Democrats and the large community turnout that he did not feel comfortable voting for a tax increase until a spending plan was in place,” Peterson stated. “The ordinance was [then] tabled.”
The Accountable Care Organization will oversee this distribution, as it is co-sponsored by Morell and council members Derek Young and Connie Ladenburg. Many within the council feel as though behavioral health is a significant issue facing Pierce County residents. “The ACO pilot plan allows for local engagement, ownership and governance, and Pierce County to build a better healthcare system,” Morell said.
Along with distributing Medicaid dollars, the ACO will use the estimated $12 million generated annually to cover health related sectors not covered by the program or Medicaid. Examples of what this could fund include behavioral health education, empowering those who use behavioral health services and training for first responders and criminal justice professionals interacting with people during behavioral crises.
From the News Tribune, Morell shared their personal experiences involving mental health within their own circle. “I’ve learned a lot about behavioral health through family experiences in dealing with issues of addiction with family members and also dealing with a death in the family that was because of an addictive behavior that went on and on and on,” Morell said. “But I also understand that there has to be guardrails in place to protect the taxpayer.”
Pierce County’s official site states that the status of this sales tax increase has since been sent to state executives. “The county finance director has until April 15, 2021 to certify state and federal agency approval of the ACO model,” the site stated. “Once certified the sales tax increase will be collected. The tax collection will cease after Dec. 31, 2027 unless a future Council extends it.”
More news and updates will be provided as this story unfolds.