At our October 3rd meeting, HVALF delegates voted to endorse Washtenaw County’s proposal for a public safety & community mental health millage, which will be on the ballot this November 7th.
While the millage is more complex and less transparent than we would like, we nonetheless believe (based on our knowledge of the commitments of the majority of Commissioners and the Sheriff) that most of the funds raised will go to community mental health needs and, closely related, to keeping people with such needs out of our criminal justice system. These are vital priorities for our community that we whole-heartedly share with the Commissioners who back this millage.
We also believe that the workers on the front lines of community mental health service delivery — both those who are county employees and those employed by service providers that contract with the County — are seriously under-paid. Many of the latter are making around $9/hr, less than a McDonald’s worker, despite the much heavier responsibilities that they have. Entry level County employees doing this work start at about $14.66/hr., though they do get benefits.
Working with Commissioners who share this conviction, we will do our best to ensure that some of the millage money is used to raise the pay of those who do this vital work. If we are successful, this should help to reduce turnover, particularly among the lower paying service providers. Lower turnover, in turn, means stronger relationships between consumers and service providers, and the higher quality of service that results from increased knowledge and trust.