For the first time in recent years, the city of Seattle will be footing most of the bill for human services if the budget Mayor Mike McGinn presented today is approved.
The budget proposes a 9 percent, or $5.6 million, increase in funding for the Human Services Division. The money will go toward better services for the homeless, domestic violence victims and other services.
The increased funding comes as external funding for the Human Services Division is down $32.8 million since 2010, according to the mayor’s office. Those external sources include state, federal and grant funding. It also underscores a theme of McGinn’s budget presentation, which heavily emphasized his administration’s efforts to increase human services and mental health funding.
“We see all these cuts coming at us from the feds … sometimes it’s really hard to understand what’s happening at other levels of government.
“Preserving tax cuts trumps helping people.”
Also getting a boost, via the public safety budget, are downtown mental health services.
Cuts to mental health services have come under scrutiny after a man who told police he was schizophrenic and off his medication allegedly stabbed a college professor to death in Pioneer Square.
In today’s speech to the city council, McGinn deplored the situation and outlined how his budget would improve mental health services in the city.
“Washington state has fewer per capita mental health beds than any other state,” he said. People without support systems “end up on our streets, and our officers have to deal with that.”
The budget proposes a $1.75 million increase for case management and services, which McGinn said would go toward doubling hours of Seattle’s mental health coordinators.
While the budget would add 15 police officers in 2014, McGinn today struck a progressive tone in the speech, which is notable given criticism that he’s being soft on crime downtown. Political conventional wisdom would predict that facing charges of being soft, McGinn would go hard, a la Bill Clinton letting Arkansas execute a mentally retarded man in the lead up to the 1992 election.
However, McGinn used much of his speech to reiterate that Seattle needed to be a place where everyone could join in the prosperity.
“We need to be careful that those with money power and influence can’t put their thumb on the balance of prosperity.”