Advocates want to identify how to aid mental health population

EVERETT — As lawmakers prepare to head back to Olympia this month mental health advocates want to talk with them about plans to improve services and to explore ways to fix gaps in the system.

Two nonprofit mental health advocacy groups are hosting a legislative forum Monday in Everett. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Snohomish County and the county’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health have invited state and local lawmakers to discuss service needs and plans to fulfill those needs.

The public is invited to attend.

“This is an opportunity for elected officials to get input from the community,” said Jim Bloss, a volunteer with NAMI.

The panel is expected to include state Sen. John McCoy and state Reps. Mary Helen Roberts, Hans Dunshee and June Robinson. Former County Councilman Dave Gossett also is expected to attend along with other local elected officials.

The moderated discussion will center on community mental health and chemical dependency services, Bloss said.

“This doesn’t happen inside a vacuum. All levels must work together,” he said.

The forum also is expected to include an exercise to help community members be better advocates for those living with mental illnesses or in need of chemical dependency services. That will include ways that people can better communicate their concerns to lawmakers, Bloss said.

In Snohomish County, Executive John Lovick recently convened a panel to explore ways to better serve people living with mental illnesses. Meanwhile, Sheriff Ty Trenary has began looking at alternatives to locking up nonviolent mentally ill people caught up in the criminal justice system. He also has started talks with mental health providers and service agencies about better coordinating efforts to connect inmates with programs that may reduce their risk of return before they are released from the jail.

Monday’s forum is scheduled from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Sanders Building in the central conference room at Compass Health’s Federal Campus, 4526 Federal Ave., Everett.

For more information, contact Bloss at 425-231-5186.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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