Pioneer Square stabbing puts mental health issues at center of mayor's race

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherGrafK5

KING5.com

Posted on September 16, 2013 at 10:57 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 16 at 10:58 PM

The man accused of killing an English professor and injuring his girlfriend in Pioneer Square is homeless and claims to be schizophrenic.  Now, the case is putting the issue of mental health services right in the middle of Seattle's mayor's race.

Troy Wolff died after being stabbed multiple times on Friday night.

On Monday, Mayor Mike McGinn spent almost half an hour talking about the stabbing, during a news conference on an unrelated issue.

"i want to be really clear about his, i do not want to stigmatize people with mental health issues," said McGinn.  "But when someone is violent, we have to have the ability to identity that, provide services, and potentially isolate them so they cant hurt themselves or others."

McGinn then rattled off a long list of crimes in the Seattle area, dating back to 1997, that were committed at the hands of someone believed to have mental health issues.

He says mental health services are not something typically funded on the local level, but that may need to change, because the city has repeatedly asked for more mental health funding from the state, but hasn't had much success.

He said it's time to start looking at how to fund mental health services locally, even if that requires finding a dedicated tax source to pay for it.

"We will keep pushing. we will add more officers, we will give our officers more training so they have greater skill and ability to deal with people in mental health crisis," he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Ed Murray, who will face McGinn in the November election, says this is not a problem that can be blamed on the state legislature.

"It's unfortunate the mayor isn't aware the legislature passed Obama Care, The Affordable Care Act, this year," he said.  "And that individuals who do not have mental health coverage today who are on the streets will have mental health coverage in the future, as Obama Care goes into place."

Murray said it's not a solution to the problem, but it's a start.

He also says McGinn should have acted years ago to address this problem.

"I would've acted earlier around the issue of police enforcement," he said.  "McGinn said there wasn't a crime problem in the central part of our city.  What I would do different is admit that we have a problem."

Both candidates sent their condolences to the family of Troy Wolff, who will be remembered at a Celebration of Life service set for Sunday, September 22nd at two p.m.  It will be held in the Pagoda Student Union Building on the campus of Shoreline Community College.

That's where Wolff taught English for 17 years.

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