At its last Council meeting of the year, the Pierce County Council made a commitment to increase behavioral health services in the county by approving a 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax increase, and set in motion creation of a pilot program aimed at reinvesting more Medicaid dollars into Pierce County.
In a 5-1 vote, Council passed the sales tax increase to fund behavioral health and therapeutic court services. At the same time members authorized creation of an Accountable Care Organization pilot program, and establishment of a Behavioral Health Advisory Board to create a behavioral health implementation plan.
The Accountable Care Organization (ACO) will oversee distribution of federal Medicaid dollars in Pierce County. The 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax increase will fill the gaps not covered by the program or Medicaid. The tax increase is estimated to generate $12 million annually for behavioral health services.
The first of its kind in the state, the ACO model was proposed by the Regional System of Care Committee and presented to Council in October as one way to improve regional services for behavioral health.
“The ACO pilot plan allows for local engagement, ownership and governance, and for Pierce County to build a better healthcare system,” said Council Vice Chair Dave Morell, who co-sponsored the ordinance with council members Derek Young and Connie Ladenburg.
“We have protected taxpayers by requiring development of a strategic plan for behavioral health response, including a performance audit review, a date for when the tax collection will end and a data platform to show where the money is being spent efficiently and effectively with measurable results,” Morell said.
The state Health Care Authority must approve the pilot and forward its recommendation to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Collection of the 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax increase is contingent on state approval.
The ordinance now goes to the county Executive for signature. The county finance director has until April 15, 2021 to certify state and federal agency approval of the ACO model. Once certified the sales tax increase will be collected. The tax collection will cease after Dec. 31, 2027 unless a future Council extends it.