Mental health funding priorities to be identified by public survey

Kitsap County residents are being asked for a favor from the the county’s Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Therapeutic Tax Citizen’s Advisory Committee, one that should only take a few minutes of their time: complete a survey.

This survey comes as a result of Kitsap County adopting a Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Therapeutic Court sales tax (one-tenth of 1 percent) in September 2013.

“In collaboration with community leaders and subject matter experts, the Kitsap County Human Services Department developed a six-year strategic plan for behavioral health services,” said Gay Neal, with the Department of Human Services.

“June 30, 2016, marks the second full year of service delivery, and three years since the development of the Behavioral Health Strategic Plan.”

Neal said the CAC was established and tasked with reviewing the plan every three years to assess the progress in reaching the following goals:

  • Improve the health status and well-being of Kitsap County residents;
  • Reduce the incidence and severity of chemical dependency and/or mental health disorders in adults and youth;
  • Reduce the number of chemically dependent and mentally ill youth and adults from initial or further criminal justice system involvement;
  • Reduce the number of people in Kitsap County who recycle through the criminal justice systems, including jails and prisons;
  • Reduce the number of people in Kitsap County who use costly interventions, including hospitals, emergency rooms and crisis services; and
  • Increase the number of stable housing options for chemically dependent and mentally ill residents of Kitsap County.

“The results (of the survey) will provide feedback to the Citizen’s Advisory Board on the community’s priorities for funding,” Neal said.

She added that as of Jan. 3, 175 people have taken the survey. The CAC hopes for feedback from at least 300.

Of those who have taken the survey, Neal said 44 percent identified themselves as concerned citizens; 12 percent are concerned family members; and 5 percent are consumers of behavioral health services.

Already, the Behavioral Health Strategic Plan is making positive changes in the community, according to a press release issued by the Department of Human Services:

  • 99 percent of elementary school staff and 96 percent of secondary school staff report improvements in their school’s ability to respond effectively to students’ behavioral health needs;
  • 94 percent of the participants who completed Juvenile Drug Court or Individualized Treatment Court have not committed another offense; and
  • Of students with an identified substance use reduction goal, there was a 49-percent reduction in smoking cigarettes, 63-percent reduction in alcohol use, 78-percent reduction in binge drinking and 60-percent reduction in marijuana use.

Laudable accomplishments to be sure, but this is only two full years into the strategic plan. Taking the survey is one way to increase the impact the plan and prioritize “gaps in service for future funding,” according to the press release.

The survey is only eight questions long, and includes choosing top three priorities for behaviorial health prevention/intervention funding; crisis intervention funding; funding for withdrawal management and treatment; and funding for recovery support services.

The survey also asks participants to identify how they’re related to the problem (concerned citizen, family member, healthcare professional, etc.), what their priorities for funding this project are and whether the taker feels “cross-system information sharing at all levels of the continuum should be considered as a funding priority.”

“Kitsap County places a high value on citizen input and participation on advisory groups,” Neal said.

“Residents have the opportunity to express their diverse viewpoints, participate in local government and provide review and input to the Boart of County Commissioners by serving as representatives on county advisory groups.”

The survey is available online at For more information on the mental health tax, funded programs and strategic planning, visit or contact

Michelle Beahm is a reporter for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at

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