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Stabbing Death Prompts Call for Tax to Fund Mental Health

Paula Wissel

Last weekend’s random killing of Shoreline Community College English Professor Troy Wolff in Pioneer Square has prompted Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to call for more money to be spent on mental health resources, including a possible tax dedicated to mental health.

Donnell Jackson has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the stabbing of Wolff and Kristin Ito, who survived the attack.

According to a story in The Seattle Times, Jackson spent time in a mental hospital in California after a judge found him mentally incompetent to stand trial for setting a small fire. Jackson had been in Seattle for about 6 months when the attack took place.

McGinn says the tragedy is a reminder of the broader problem, the lack of state funding for mental health services. Often, he says, people who are a danger to others are released because there are no treatment beds available. He told reporters he’s tired of waiting for Olympia to act.

“I’m going to convene our partners in King County, in the King County Prosecutor's Office, and we are going to discuss how do we start funding more mental health services in the future,” McGinn said.

He says it's similar to other issues, where local governments have taken the lead.

“Just like education, just like gun control, just like transit, we’ve been waiting, we’ve been pushing on Olympia. In those areas, we’ve decided to invest our own dollars if necessary,” McGinn said.

He says business leaders in Seattle should support a tax earmarked for mental health. He says it would be good for Seattle’s downtown if there were more mental health services for the  people on the streets acting erratic who often prompt complaints about safety.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.