As sales tax plummets in King County, mental health and drug program funding dries up

County will need to make severe cuts to MIDD program this year.

King County will have to find a way to make up $20 million in funding for its Mental Illness and Drug Dependency funding by the end of the year.

Over the next three years, the county is projecting a $42 million deficit. The funding — known as MIDD — goes toward a variety of diversion courts, mental health and drug dependency services across the county.

“We do have a severe effect on the MIDD budget that is coming from loss of sales tax revenue this year,” said Leo Flor, head of the county’s Department of Community and Human Services at a May 28 meeting of the MIDD advisory committee.

Dwight Dively, the county’s budget director, said sales tax revenue across the county dropped dramatically in March when compared to the previous year.

Lodging taxes this March were down 90 percent year-over-year. Restaurant and bar sales tax revenue was down 70 percent, and clothing stores and auto dealership revenue were each down by about 60 percent. The MIDD program is entirely funded through sales tax.

And while the county could theoretically choose to fund MIDD programs through its general fund, that budget is also facing a $150 million deficit in the 2021-22 biennium budget.

“The option of continuing programs by having the general fund pay for them is essentially an option that does not exist,” Dively said.

In an attempt to balance this year’s budget, the county will likely use half of its MIDD reserves, or $7 million. It will also likely sell a building in Georgetown where a temporary sobering center operates. That sale could pump another $4 million into the budget. Even still, that leaves a $9 million gap that has to be filled with cuts to programs, according to county officials.

There wasn’t a finalized list of programs at the May 28 meeting that could see reductions. But additional savings could come from therapeutic courts, youth risk assessment programs and by not filling vacant positions.

The county will need to find new revenue sources to fund MIDD programs over the next three years. Dively said this could come from the federal government or from state-authorized sources.

Reductions in services are coming later this year even as demands for them are higher due to the pandemic, said King County Council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

“The rates are going up, depression and so forth,” she said.

Nearly 29,000 people from across the county used MIDD-funded services in 2017, of which 42 percent were under age 17. Participants in the programs saw a 29 percent drop in psychiatric hospital use, a 35 percent drop in jail bookings and a 53 percent reduction in emergency room admissions.

The county was awarded more than $260 million as part of the federal CARES Act. However, that funding can’t be used to back-fill the MIDD budget, according to county officials. This money comes with restrictions, prohibiting the county from using it on programs that existed before the pandemic began. The county could use it in future supplemental budget packages if the county can show an increased need for MIDD-programs stemming from the pandemic.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

Photo courtesy of Urban Family.
Local groups pull together to support 12,000 families during pandemic

Renton Innovation Zone Partnership hit the ground running, working with several organizations to help vulnerable Skyway and Highlands families with food, masks and more.

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Human remains in West Seattle identified

Bags of body parts were found in a suitcase along a West Seattle beach on June 19.

Summer vehicle travel projected to decrease this year

Traffic this summer will likely be lighter across Washington state than previous… Continue reading

Governor Jay Inslee smiles and laughs Sept. 3, 2019, during a speech at the Lynnwood Link Extension groundbreaking in Lynnwood. A Thurston County judge ruled he exceeded his authority when he vetoed single sentences in the state transportation budget in 2019. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)
Judge invalidates Gov. Inslee’s veto in roads budget

Lawmakers said the governor crossed a constitutional line.

Photo from the scene of a drive-by shooting at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. Photo by David Nelson.
Drive-by shooting at Coulon Park Tuesday interrupted memorial

Two were shot, one with life threatening injuries. Renton Police Department is investigating.

Sound Transit gets $100 million federal grant for Federal Way light rail extension

Portion of $790 million payment toward $3.1 billion project

King County cases among younger adults drives increase in COVID-19 numbers

Over half of all new cases are among people ages 20-39

Most Read