Pierce Pioneer

Pierce County to Greenlight Behavioral Health Sales Tax Increase


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.



The holidays are over; here is how to survive the “blahs”


Holidays are a time for family to gather together and enjoy the season. It could be through the act of gift giving, sharing a meal together or simply just sitting around the fireplace sharing stories from the year and hopes for the year to come. 

In December 2006, a research survey was held by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner about positive holiday emotions. An open ended question portion asked about their favorite part of the holidays. Fifty-three percent mentioned family and/or friends and 36 percent specifically mentioned spending more time with family. 

The holidays can also cause stress on those who, for various reasons, do not look forward to the holiday season. According to the same study done about the positive aspects of the holidays, research was done on the negative aspects. Thirty-eight percent of the surveyed individuals said their stress increases during the holidays due to sadness, anger, loneliness or fatigue. Only 8 percent said their stress declined. 

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration

Despite these things, the holidays boast bright lights, falling snow, time with family and festive cheer. This may be the case for many, but for others, the season can bring back painful memories of lost loved ones.

During the 2001 Christmas season, I moved from Tacoma to Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was a hard move, not only being some thousand miles away from home, but also because it was the first Christmas that my godfather would not be around for. 

He was shot and killed on the Pacific Lutheran University campus in May, seven months prior. Even though it was December, the pain of that event had not gone away.  I have had a lot of family deaths growing up, but this one was the hardest. He was more of a father to me than my actual father was. 

I made some pretty good friends during my year in Minnesota and was not truly alone. However, I had trouble not wishing I had been able to be home with the ones I really wanted to spend that particular Christmas with. Unfortunately, travel conditions and funds made it too difficult.

People get lonely during the holidays, which carries over into post-holiday time.  A lot of people are lonely, homeless or did not have the money to make a “true” holiday happen. Another reason is that often, the holidays are not that happy due to the loss of a loved one, lack of employment, family issues and more.

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration

I, for one, enjoy the holiday time, especially Christmas. You might think that it is hard to be depressed during the festivities. However, life happens. A loved one gets sick or dies, you lose a job or home or you never really had a home to begin with. Maybe you stay wherever you can for however long you are able to. Not everyone has the best of luck during the holidays.

Even though you could be around several people and yet still feel alone can cause depression during and after holidays. Even so, there are ways you can beat the “blahs” and still enjoy life after the hustle and bustle is over.

Finding ways to be happy during the holidays will also help in the post holiday “blahs” as well, there is nothing wrong with remembering and reminiscing about loved ones that have gone before during the festive times, just do not dwell on it too much, for there lies the problem. You would just be making yourself, and those around you, miserable.

You can stay active and get in a routine. Whether it is going to the gym, going for a run or just simply pushups and situps at home, be consistent and stick with it. Hobbies are always a good way to pass the time when you are feeling down and out. Take up photography, painting, rock painting or whatever else you choose to do that will make you happy.

If you are one who takes the time to make New Year’s resolutions, fulfill them. That would definitely help conquer the “blahs.” I bet you would feel really good about it – and yourself, as well.

If none of the above works, the best thing you can do is find someone to talk to. It could be a good friend, pastor, teacher or mental healthcare professional. Talk about how you are feeling and what you are going through. It will get you the help you need. I am preaching to myself on that one as well, as I, like a lot of people, do not always like asking for help when I really need it.

Live in 2019 happy, healthy and of good mind. Beat the “blahs” and embrace the joy.

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration
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