5 concerns about south Pierce County
In an unincorporated area with no central city, it’s unlikely you would find representatives from Olympia, first responders, local school districts, businesses, faith leaders, and community services gathered together to discuss issues that are impacting the community at large.
That’s exactly why the Mid County Leadership Team was created.
Superintendent Tom Seigel realized something needed to be done to bring those parties together to discuss and solve problems for communities like ours — whose voices are not often heard.
Members of Mid County recently completed a survey of what they consider to be the greatest concerns facing our area.
Mid County Leadership Team survey
“Greatest Concerns of this area”
1. Mental health (including drug treatment)
2. Community Center: Youth and senior, athletics/activity center with centralized point of access to community services
3. Transportation: bus, Cross-Base Highway
4. Parks and trails
5. Homeless and hunger
All five of these are very big issues that will require the community to come together before anything can be done. Having so many groups represented at the Mid County Leadership Team meetings creates a great starting place to begin addressing them.
Pierce County remains the only densely populated county in the state that has not adopted the 1/10 of 1 percent mental health tax. Even though the legislature has money allocated towards mental health statewide, in underserved areas like south Pierce County, that money doesn’t have anywhere to go because there aren’t resources currently in place to help those in need.
Superintendent Seigel calls the 202 miles of the Bethel School District a “hospital desert.” Once you get near 224th, it’s even harder to get resources in place because of the urban growth boundary. Even the new Bethel High School, which will be located south of 224th, required an act of the legislature to get the location approved.
School Board President Brenda Rogers said education about mental health needs to start in school.
“We need to teach our children there are better ways to address their anger and sadness than self medication,” she said. “We need more mental health supports for our students.”
Bethel is already taking steps towards this with a new Social Emotional Learning curriculum that has been implemented in all elementary and middle schools this year. Superintendent Seigel said the district is also working with the three best mental health specialists with experience in education to conduct a thorough review of the district’s needs.
It was reported at the Mid County meeting that there are no homeless centers south of 96th Street East. With Tacoma’s homeless centers already crowded, there is no indoor option in our area for those experiencing homelessness. It was also said that it’s not realistic to ask homeless individuals to go to Lakewood, Tacoma and Puyallup for services, especially with the lack of bus service in our area.
Cross Base Highway
There also seemed to be a lot of support for the Cross Base Highway, which is currently on “indefinite hold pending funding by the Washington State Legislature.” Superintendent Seigel said the highway, along with additional Pierce Transit service, would help provide relief from current and future traffic congestion in and around the Bethel School District.