Opinion

Continued services for our veterans powered by renewed Veterans Levy

By Bob Ferguson
King County Councilmember

This Memorial Day weekend, as the nation honors the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our country, King County is working to ensure there are services to help our veterans.

Since 2006, the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy invested approximately $40 million to support veteran services programs countywide. Serving King County's more than 135,000 veterans, these tax dollars have funded housing, mental health services, and job training to help veterans and their families find their footing during these tough economic times.

Examples of how levy funds are being used to help include:

• A dedicated telephone resource for veterans to provide service information and referrals, including crisis and suicide counseling.

• Treatment services for veterans and families dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

• New veterans' housing projects in places such as Bellevue, Renton, Kirkland, and Seattle, and a 45 percent increase in shelter beds for homeless veterans.

• Job training and employment assistance for unemployed veterans.

In addition, this June, King County will begin a new Veterans Treatment Court that focuses on treatment and rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Modeled after other therapeutic courts, such as the County's nationally-recognized drug court and mental health court, the new Veterans Treatment Court will provide accountability for veterans involved in the criminal justice system who are suffering from war-related trauma while linking them to treatment and support services. The Veterans and Human Services Levy includes funding for Veterans Treatment Court and other emerging justice programs for veterans.

King County voters overwhelmingly supported renewal of the Veterans and Human Services Levy last August. Almost 70 percent of voters said 'yes' to continued funding for services for veterans and others in need. The six-year levy will generate approximately $17 million a year through 2017 with one half of the revenue dedicated exclusively to serve veterans, military personnel, and their families. Two citizen levy oversight boards provide accountability for how levy dollars are used.

Having come from a family of veterans, I know that veterans deserve our support. The best way to honor the sacrifice of our veterans is to make sure there are services and help available when they need it. I was proud to author the Veterans and Human Services Levy, but am most gratified that the levy is effectively serving our veterans, who selflessly serve our nation.

King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson chairs the King County Council's Government Accountability, Oversight, and Financial Performance Committee. His father and grandfathers were veterans. He can be reached at 206-296-1001 or bob.ferguson@kingcounty.gov.

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