County addresses 'safety net' for the needy and underserved

The need to ensure that the region's most vulnerable have a "safety net" available to them is more powerful than ever.

In response, the King County Council approved a motion earlier this week to "ensure the health and human services needs of the county's underserved populations are met."

The motion calls for the county and human service providers to develop "an accountable and integrated delivery of social safety net services" in the county.

"Moving forward, our goal is to keep costs down while increasing coordination and integration across a variety of health and human services," said councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, who represents Federal Way and other South King County communities on the council.

Julia Patterson, prime sponsor of the motion, highlighted the need for accessibility for the county's residents who struggle the most.

"With so many people in need throughout King County, it is critical that we make sure that the human services infrastructure is stable and accessible to everyone," she said. "The economy has taken its toll on many communities and it's time we evaluate the health and human services system as a whole to ensure that support is adequately provided and the system is sufficiently funded."

The county cites the need for the plan because health and human services are funded through federal, state and local dollars. With revenues divided across three funding sources, there can be funding gaps that allow people to fall through the proverbial cracks, the county notes.

Tuesday's motion will make the county specify the vision and goals of "an accountable and integrated health and human services system." King County Executive Dow Constantine will be called upon to come up with options for financing a system that meets those goals.

"This action commences King County's response to federal health reform, enabling us to improve outcomes, better coordinate care, and reduce avoidable costs," Constantine said. "By using a coordinated system of care, we can integrate human services and supports to better treat the whole person."

This week's motion builds on work the county has already started in anticipation of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The plan is required to describe system coordination and strategies across a variety of health and human services. Among those services the plan will touch on will be:

• Clinical health services, including primary care

• Health promotion and community-based prevention

• Community development and place-based programs

• Mental illness and chemical dependency, including recovering oriented systems

• Domestic violence and sexual assault survivor(s)

• People with developmental disabilities





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