Clallam County considers grant to study homeless issues

Commissioners could approve funds next week

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County has received a $100,000 grant to conduct a needs assessment for the homeless population.

The three commissioners vetted the proposed agreement with the state Department of Commerce on Monday for possible approval next Tuesday.

Kevin LoPiccolo, county Health and Human Services deputy director, said the funding would be used to identify needs such as affordable housing, low-barrier shelter, transitional housing and case management.

“Our goal is to create an RFP (request for proposals) to have the needs assessment completed by an outside agency, with the hope to help implement some of the results from it,” said Jennifer Oppelt, behavioral health program coordinator, in the commissioners’ work session Monday.

Information from the needs assessment would be used by the county’s Homelessness Task Force to influence five- and 10-year plans to reduce homelessness, Oppelt said.

Commissioner Randy Johnson said a mental health component would be “paramount.”

“We need to measure that as one of the unfortunate shortfalls we have,” Johnson said.

Oppelt said the needs assessment would cover treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. She added that the goal will be to identify gaps in services.

“I would be interested, as it takes a little bit more shape, to hear a little bit more about it,” Board Chairman Mark Ozias said.

“I’m keen to understand how the information that we hope to collect will be utilized and how we can plug that into the funding recommendations that the Homelessness Task Force makes.”

In other discussion Monday, commissioners reviewed a continued agreement with Kitsap Public Health District for a youth marijuana prevention and education program that began in 2018.

Christine Dunn, county prevention and linkage to care coordinator, said the $42,244 agreement would fund the program through next June.

Commissioners are expected to sign the agreement next Tuesday.

“It is basically working on preventing youth use and education throughout the county, not only among youth but among the general population, and also increasing the perception of harm of youth use,” Dunn told commissioners Monday.

“We’re working on several different mechanisms to make that happen,” she added. “One of them is working on local policy systems and environmental changes.

“We’re also going to be working on presentations at the community level to kind of increase the community’s awareness of what it is we’re doing, or trying to accomplish, with the program.”

Clallam County Health and Human Services has provided information to marijuana retailers to share with customers and participated in statewide marijuana prevention groups, Dunn said.

“We’re also exploring the opportunity locally to work with our pediatric clinics to get youth marijuana, vaping and just youth marijuana use screening questions added to their general questionnaire so that we can start getting treatment for kids that are using in the door,” Dunn said

“The perception of harm about marijuana is really low, and that’s one of the things that we are hoping to rectify in this coming year.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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