Submitted by Justin Teerlinck, MOTR/L.
My name is Justin Teerlinck. I’m a mental health occupational therapist with over 20 years of experience working in community mental and in crisis and inpatient setting across three states. I’ve worked at Oregon State Hospital, and founded and managed the occupational therapy department at Western State Hospital and the rehabilitation services department at Wellfound Hospital. The views expressed here may not be representative of my past or present employers, but are my own.
Here is why we should support for the 1/10th of 1% behavioral health tax in Pierce County, Proposal 2020-24.
- The tax will support prevention, primary care, and diversionary programs, not just crisis services. Prevention and housing people in the community is far cheap than “housing” people in jail or in inpatient settings where their long-term needs are poorly met, not met at all. Since I’ve worked with people in every setting across the continuum of care, I understand this all too well.
- We also still DO need crisis services that are designed to meet the needs of people with mental illness. Washington state ranks at the bottom in the number of crisis beds per capita.
- Whether we want to or not, taxpayers will pay for crisis services, and a lack of prevention and primary care…or their inadequate stand-in’s: clogged jails and courts, and expensive medical emergency department visits. On average it costs around $200,000 to keep a patient at Western State Hospital and around $60,000 to give in a supported housing situation, like a sober living facility or a group home. The idea that “everyone at Western is dangerous,” is simply not true. People have been approved for conditional release often have to wait at the hospital until very rare slots open up to receive supported housing and other needed services.
- NIMBY doesn’t work anymore. The antiquated notion that some city councils are still clinging to is that they can legislate people with mental illness out of their communities. That’s been proven wrong time and time again, at the taxpayers’ expense.The City of Lakewood lost a huge court battle defending their desire to discriminate against services for people with mental illness last year. The City of Tacoma is doing the same thing. They are getting sued, and will lose as well–which means we all lose. Who do you think pays for city councils’ illegal misadventures? You do. I do. We do. And ultimately, people with mental illness do, as they continue to languish, waiting for somebody to do the right thing. The Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other state and federal laws safeguard against discrimination–including the use of loopholes and technicalities to prevent access to housing and services to people in our community with mental illness.
- It’s the right thing to do. Providing supportive housing and other community-based mental health programs and services is not just cheaper, it’s also more compassionate and humane. The cities may not want to deal with “them,” but they’re here. They’re us. Most people know someone with mental illness, possibly in their own family. They are someone’s son or daughter, mother or father.
Quality services require investment, and that means taxes. There is no way around it. Providing adequate care for people who need it, is an investment in our community, no different than investing in public schools or other social services. The adage that “you get what you pay for” is all too true! In Minnesota, where I’m from, there is a thriving arts community, educational opportunities, healthcare, industry and jobs, and even though the tax-rates are higher, businesses love it there. It’s home base for Target and 3M. All of that was achieved only through public investment and everyone pitching in. We already have a state and local communities we can be proud of here. Let’s take that one step further, and see that the needs of our most vulnerable citizens are not neglected. Thank you for listening.Print This Post