A Washington county’s new idea for solving homelessness and addiction has garnered support from Washington Governor Jay Inslee and other state officials.

Snohomish County, Wash., leadership plans to turn the county’s former work release building in Everett into a diversion center, Washington TV station Q13 Fox reports. The work release building was closed in 2016 due to sheriff’s office budget cuts, the Snohomish County Tribune reports.

The two-story diversion center, set to open on March 31, will have a kitchen, bathrooms, laundry rooms and 44 beds for men and women to receive addiction counseling, food, shelter and clothing 24/7, according to the Tribune and Q13. This in turn helps keep low-level offender addicts out of jail.

“The old days of a pair of handcuffs and a trip to the jail for someone who uses drugs no longer works,” Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said, according to Q13.

While addicts stay in the diversion center, Trenary says the county would ideally place users into detox, treatment or low barrier housing, according to the Tribune. Officials say the center could help over 300 people a year, and they hope it helps mitigate the opioid crisis.

Gov. Inslee toured the diversion center on Jan. 18 and praised it as a solution for addiction and homelessness, according to the Everett Herald. Inslee set aside $500,000 aside in his proposed budget for the diversion center, which would run as a pilot project, according to the Cashmere Valley Record

“This is the first of something we want to replicate. I am incredibly confident this will succeed,” Inslee said, per Q13. “The solution to our state problem is in the counties.”

Additionally, state representatives and senators have introduced bills in the Washington legislature that would develop the pilot project as a partnership between local police and Snohomish County, the Record reports. 

“We need to attack addiction and mental health issues in a different way than we have in the past,” said State Rep. Dave Hayes, the house bill’s primary sponsor and a Snohomish County Sheriff’s sergeant, per the Record. “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”


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