Spokane Valley Considers Allocating $1 Million in COVID Funding for Behavioral Health and Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives

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Spokane Valley – November 17, 2023

The Spokane Valley City Council is deliberating the reallocation of $1 million in available funds to bolster local behavioral health programs and extend support to victims of human trafficking within the community. The original fund infusion dates back to 2022, when Spokane Valley received a portion of the $16 million federal allocation dedicated to COVID-19 pandemic relief, specifically known as the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.

Initially designated for mental health services and youth mental health learning support programs, the $1 million share faced a change in trajectory this August. Discussions among Spokane Valley officials revolved around potential partnerships with entities such as Spokane County Behavioral Health and the East Valley School District for a comprehensive student wellness program. However, Spokane County commissioners opted to fully finance the program for East Valley schools, rendering the city’s proposed $1 million contribution unnecessary.

Virginia Clough, the project manager, highlighted the opportunity during the council’s regular weekly meeting, emphasizing that the allocated funds were still available for mental health and youth mental health programs or any other purpose the council deemed fit.

City managers John Hohman and Virginia Clough both expressed the appropriateness of utilizing the funds to support mental or behavioral health services. Councilman Arne Woodard suggested keeping it within that category and urged prompt initiation of a formal process to solicit proposals from potential groups or organizations capable of providing such services.

Councilman Ben Wick proposed broadening the definition of behavioral health to include addressing concerns related to human trafficking within the community. Wick expressed a desire to allocate some funds to combat the growing issue of human trafficking, considering it a significant and distressing problem that needed attention.

Councilman Tim Hattenburg echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the gravity of human trafficking as a tragic cycle involving the abuse of young individuals and children. Hattenburg suggested a focus on this issue, recognizing its distressing impact on the community.

Deputy Mayor Rod Higgins raised concerns about the potential delay that a formal request-for-proposals process might cause, as mentioned by city manager John Hohman. Higgins questioned whether seizing an opportunity to address the issue quickly might be lost during the extended timeline of the formal process.

In light of this, council members discussed local nonprofit ministries actively involved in supporting women escaping trafficking. There was a unanimous consensus to have city staff contact representatives from these groups for presentations to the council in the near future. Additionally, a quick search will be conducted to identify other potential service providers in the community.

The Spokane Valley City Council is committed to ensuring that the available funds are strategically utilized to address critical behavioral health needs and combat human trafficking, reflecting their dedication to the well-being of the community.

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