28th District Update: Summer Tours and the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Its hot out there! During extreme heat events it is important to remember to drink lots of water and keep out of the sun. That is why access to power and water is vital during extreme heat events. As a reminder, utilities are now prohibited from shutting off your power, water, or gas for nonpayment during any National Weather Service heat event. We already prevent utilities from cutting off access during winter storms and new legislation that is now in effect will ensure everyone has access to power and water during extreme heat events.

Extreme heat can also lead to fires as we saw at Fort Steilacoom Park earlier this month. As a reminder, keeping your yard trimmed can cut down on fuel for wildfires and prevent a small fire from getting out of control quickly. Pierce County is currently under a burn ban (unless you are using a gas grill). Stay safe out there and enjoy the warm weather!

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

hotline operator

Last month, I joined Rep. Tina Orwall from Des Moines to visit with South Sound 911 as well as local police and fire chiefs to discuss the roll out of the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. The new 988 line has now been live for one year and is already making a big impact. It provides an alternative response to someone who is suicidal or suffering from a mental health crisis. Here in Pierce County, the hotline will either provide a mental health counselor over the phone, in person, or with firefighters/law enforcement if necessary. The hotline can make sure that people in crisis are getting the most appropriate response.

In talking with law enforcement and firefighters from the south sound, it is already clear that 988 is making an impact and freeing up law enforcement and firefighting resources for tasks they are better suited for.

This year, Rep. Orwall sponsored HB 1134 which will support the creation of trauma-informed clinical teams that can rapidly respond in person to a crisis as an alternative to law enforcement. These new resources will provide more appropriate options for people experiencing behavioral health crisis.

Hanford Nuclear Reservation Tour

Earlier this summer, I traveled to the Tri-Cities to tour the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. While some might know Hanford as the site that produced the plutonium for the Manhattan Project, these days Hanford is the home of the Columbia Generating Station, Washington’s nuclear power plant, as well as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Fast Flux Test Facility, and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. The Columbia Generating Station produces around 8% of the energy consumed each year in Washington.

During the tour we had a chance to learn about Advanced Small Modular Reactors. These smaller nuclear reactors are the future of nuclear energy. Cheaper to produce and with a much smaller physical footprint, they are also much safer than conventional nuclear power plants. Because their safety systems rely on passive systems that do not require human intervention, it is virtually impossible for a small modular reactor to melt down. They have great potential to supply carbon free energy going forward and will be a part of any policy that creates energy abundance.

McNeil Island Special Commitment Center Tour

The Department of Corrections closed its McNeil Island facility in 2011, but the Department of State Health and Human Services still runs a Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. This facility houses those deemed “sexually violent predators” after their criminal sentence if they are still considered a threat to society. Last month, I visited the facility with Rep. Lauren Davis to get a better idea of how we are dealing with sexually violent predators and keeping our communities safe.

Because those held at the special commitment center are only civilly committed, they will one day most likely return to society. To help prepare for that they receive counseling, treatment, and coaching on life skills to help prepare them for the future. Once someone is released back into the community from the special treatment center, DOC and DSHS both keep very close tabs to ensure that an individual is not at risk to reoffend. If that person does do something illegal, they can be held accountable and returned to the special commitment center. The tour was a good chance to talk to the program manager and staff and better understand how we can keep our community safe from sexually violent predators.

If you have comments, questions, or ideas, please contact my office. I hope to hear from you soon!