Snohomish County is represented by 21 legislators from seven different legislative districts in Olympia at the State Legislature. The Snohomish County Council passes an annual legislative agenda to guide and advocate for policies and funding in Olympia to help us better serve our constituents. The 2018 legislative session has come to an end and we saw some great wins for Snohomish County.
One of the most noteworthy accomplishments of the session was the Hirst water rights fix. As background, the Washington State Supreme Court in 2016 issued a ruling that severely affected the ability of private landowners to drill residential wells on their own property. There are many residents in unincorporated areas of North Snohomish County that rely on a stable water supply from wells. This issue went unresolved during the 2017 session but the legislature finally came together and passed a fix that helps many residents of North Snohomish County. While the fix leaves some issues unresolved for our neighbors to the north in Skagit County, many of the affected landowners can now move forward with their wells and building their homes, a lifelong dream for many people.
Snohomish County residents will also benefit from the $17 million capital budget appropriation to the North Sound Behavioral Health Organization (NSBHO). The NSBHO is a five county organization including Snohomish, Skagit, Island, Whatcom and San Juan counties that appropriates and funds mental and behavioral health treatment across the region. This funding includes a $10 million investment in Snohomish County for drug treatment and mental health treatment facilities. We are all well aware of the ongoing heroin and opioid crisis affecting all of our communities. These facilities will be an integral part of finding solutions and help for those needing it.
In addition to the facilities funded by the capital budget, Snohomish County is launching its Jail Diversion Pilot Program. With the diversion center in place, individuals who end up in the jail because of their addiction will be given the opportunity for short-term, residential housing while they are connected to more permanent housing and recovery and treatment options. We know that what we have done in the past does not work. Innovative solutions like the Jail Diversion Center will help get individuals the help they need while making our streets and neighborhoods safer. Snohomish County asked the legislature for $1.5 million to fund the pilot program with the hope that its success encourages counties around the state to adopt similar models. While we didn't receive all of the funding we asked for, we did receive $800,000 from the legislature in the supplemental budget. This is a great start and I am excited to see the Diversion Center open later this year.
I am proud of the strong partnerships between Snohomish County and our legislative delegation. Many of the issues we face require collaboration and solutions from every level of government and I am happy to work with our state and county leaders on your behalf.
Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at 425-388-3494.